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Paramedics union cries foul over ‘anti-union’ meeting in Cicero

Published: Monday, Nov. 18, 2013 4:18 p.m. CDT

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CICERO – Union officials alledge that Cicero’s contracted paramedics were forced to attend an anti-union meeting Oct. 17 by their employer in an attempt to dissuade them from unionizing, which disrupted paramedic service for Cicero residents for more than three hours.

Town and Metro Paramedic Services, Inc. officials said at no time was service compromised when they held the meeting, which they said informed employees of the pros and cons of becoming a union shop.

In a letter dated Oct. 22 from the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics (IAEP), representative Mike Stone said service was delayed when Metro management “ordered its paramedics out of service” and made them attend an “anti-union meeting” for more than three hours.

Stone said emergency service and 911 ambulance service was partially covered by Superior Ambulance, the parent company of Metro Paramedic Services.

“It’s hard to believe that an otherwise reputable company like Superior would actually endanger public safety just to try to convince their employees to not be represented by a labor union,” Stone said.

Metro Paramedic Services Vice President Michael Tillman said the meeting was held at the Skyview restaurant at 7 a.m. Oct. 17, and all employees were asked – and paid – too attend.

Metro’s parent company, Superior Ambulance Service, filled in with an equal amount of advanced life support ambulances, he said, each manned by two EMT paramedics, as specified by a contract with the town of Cicero.

In addition, Tillman said, at no additional cost to the town of Cicero, paramedic supervisors were in each ambulance that had inherent knowledge of the town’s geography.

“Our supervisors were not at the meeting at Skyview,” he said.

Stone said out of the 25 Metro paramedics contrated to Cicero, 24 were eligible to vote for union representation. The vote held Oct. 30, was 20-3 to unionize, he said.

The meeting was run by consultant and attorney Michael Ciabottoni, of MSC Labor Relations.

“When companies sense they are having a labor relations issue, we get called in,” Ciabottoni said. “We try to extract what the issues are and try to come up with cohesive solutions with everyone having a say.”

According to Ciabottoni, there was so much misinformation being presented that it became necessary to get everyone in the same room and try to explain the facts.

“My meetings are not anti-union. I strive to find middle ground. I don’t believe I made one anti-union statement during the whole engagement,” Ciabottoni said. “If the union considers the fact I exposed the truth about the dues and the fact the IAEP needs dues like they need blood, that’s not anti-union, that’s just fact.”

Town of Cicero spokesman Ray Hanania dismissed the idea the town would support forcing their contracted paramedics to go to an anti-union meeting.

“From our standpoint, we think they are better off independent. It makes them more accountable to the residents,” he said.

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