Union Says Multnomah County’s Ambulance Provider Is Violating Its Labor Contract

The Teamsters accuse AMR of reneging on its agreement to provide burned-out paramedics a reprieve at the end of their shifts.

The Teamsters booth at the Labor Day Picnic in Oaks Park. (Wesley Lapointe)

A lack of paramedics and a rise in medical 911 calls has resulted in slower ambulances. Amid the crisis, Multnomah County’s ambulance provider, American Medical Response, faces heightened scrutiny for its short-staffing.

And, WW has learned, it’s also facing a grievance from its union, Teamsters Local 223, which accuses AMR of violating the terms of its labor contract.

The dispute stems from a concession made by AMR during last year’s contract negotiations, in which it promised not to send paramedics out on a call during the last 30 minutes of their shifts.

That policy was designed to provide relief for burned-out paramedics who often worked far more than 40 hours a week. “A lot of people are being held over past the end of their shift,” says Austin DePaolo, the business representative for Local 223, who blames backups in emergency rooms.

But in an April 26 memo, AMR announced it would no longer honor the agreement, the union said in a grievance letter sent earlier this month to Randy Lauer, AMR’s vice president of Northwest operations.

“Your conscious decision to flagrantly violate the Collective Bargaining Agreement is destructive to the bargaining relationship and harmful to our members’ health and well-being. It will not be taken lightly nor forgotten quickly,” the June 3 letter reads.

In a statement to WW, Lauer says AMR is hamstrung by the paramedic shortage: “This is something AMR and the union want to do, but would mean too few units available and that just makes the situation worse. Our medics are working way too hard, getting off late almost every day and encountering violent patients. Only in Multnomah County do medics wear body armor, and that’s saying something.”

DePaolo says the union took “some wage concessions” in exchange for the concession. “We’ve demanded some compensation for any time that anyone spends beyond the end of shift,” he tells WW.

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