In a move that fits perfectly into Ithaca’s union friendly atmosphere, workers employed with Bangs Ambulance Inc. have recently started the process of organizing to form a union with the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA). However, similarly to many other organizing efforts the company's leadership has been reluctant to recognize the union.
A press release by Bangs Ambulance Workers United said that the group was made up of roughly 50 EMTs, Paramedics, and Emergency Medical Dispatchers who are seeking better working conditions and a stronger voice on the job.
Robert Royer, a Paramedic with 15 years in the EMS field said, “I am organizing so that we can provide better care and service to the public. A piece of solving that problem is to build a better retention system within our ranks”
Nick Supron, an advanced medical technician with four years of experience in the EMS field also said that he was organizing because he believes that the community is at risk and is “concerned about worker and patient safety”. According to Supron, “with a unified voice we can affect change.”
The union's press release explains that “Bangs Ambulance is the largest and primary EMS response agency in Tompkins County and took nearly 11,000 calls just last year. The number of 911 EMS calls in Tompkins County is increasing exponentially, pushing the current system to the limit every day.” The press release continued saying that “EMS providers feel this is not sustainable and could lead to poor outcomes and lower quality of patient care.”
Workers supportive of unionizing say that the emergency medical response system in Tompkins County has been stretched too thin as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the seemingly endless calls related to overdoses fueled by the opioid epidemic.
According to the press release from Bangs Ambulance Workers United, “We are organizing to secure viable pay, reasonable health care, and a transparent workplace, as well as to secure the staffing, equipment, and updated protocols necessary for the operation of an effective emergency medical response system,” The press release continued saying, “This is vital for the good of the workers, the good of the company, and the good of the community. We are unionizing so the EMTs and paramedics of Bangs Ambulance will have a collective voice in the company; a voice that unionization will provide.”
Bangs Ambulance has not responded to The Ithaca Times for comment as of the time of publishing this story. However, in an email the Communications Specialist for the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA), Nicholas Newcomb, recently said, “Bangs leadership denied the request for voluntary recognition. However, this is not unusual and we hope to work positively with them along the way.”
As a result of the companies refusal to recognize the union, Bangs workers delivered a petition to the National Labor Relations Board on October 4, asking for an official union election. However, according to CSEA organizer Adam Pelletier, union members have indicated that they would be willing to withdraw that petition if the company voluntarily decides to recognize the union.
According to Bangs Ambulance Workers United, the goal of organizing is to provide workers with a collective voice for positive collective change to help build a better system in order to provide the community with the highest level of care and recruit and retain the best EMS caregivers in Tompkins County.
According to Newcomb, “This group just wants a collective voice to help make positive change in the workplace to best serve the community. I think you see everywhere groups of workers understanding that they have the right to unionize and have their voices heard and that’s a positive thing.”