Paramedics, Medical Technicians : Hartson’s Seeks to Block Union Organizing Effort

Times Staff Writer

Officials at Hartson’s Medical Services have mounted a legal challenge to block a successful recruiting drive by the union that recently organized most of the company’s paramedics and medical technicians.

Hartson’s has a $6.8-million paramedic contract with San Diego that expires in June, 1991. The organization drive by the Service Employees International Union, Local 102, was launched in January, when the union was approached by a delegation of Hartson’s employees, and the workers ratified the union in August, union officials said.

According to Eliseo Medina, president of Local 102, the union will represent about 330 paramedics and emergency medical technicians employed by Hartson’s. Technicians earn $5 an hour, and paramedics are paid $6.50 an hour, he added.

Technicians and paramedics work shifts of up to 24 hours, somewhat similar to shifts for firefighters.


“These are highly qualified people whom the public literally depends on for their very lives,” Medina said. “They fill critical public safety positions but are paid ridiculously low wages and have to work under shocking conditions. They’re not in this business to get rich, but to provide a needed service, and they’re proud of their profession. . . . But right now there is no incentive for them to continue in this field. That’s why we’re representing them now.”

Hartson’s recently bought Goodhew Ambulance Service. The Hartson executives and their attorneys declined to be interviewed. But Mary Grillo, director of organizing for Local 102, said that Hartson’s is challenging the ratification vote on grounds that workers were intimidated into voting for the union.

“We’ve heard that argument before. . . . Everything was done according to NLRB rules, and that challenge is going to be shot down. The fact is that the workers came to us, asking us to represent them. We didn’t seek them out,” Grillo said.

According to Grillo, Hartson’s has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and the federal agency has not yet set a hearing date on the company’s challenge.


Grillo said 65% of the medical technicians signed a petition in January asking Local 102 to represent them. Hartson’s responded by demanding that paramedics also be allowed to vote at a hearing to determine if the company employees should be represented by a union, thinking that paramedics would not be inclined to support the unionization drive, Grillo said.

But, on Aug. 25 and 26, Hartson’s employees voted 138 to 111 in favor of union representation, she added.

In the last two years, Local 102 has emerged as probably the most aggressive union in San Diego County. The local now represents about 2,200 workers. The union’s membership includes janitors, health care workers and school district employees. Local 102 organizers are involved in drives to recruit about 500 county workers and 100 gardeners and janitors at the North Island Naval Air Station.