(BUFFALO, N.Y.) – At the annual “Taste of Buffalo” this weekend, local paramedics and EMTs protested their employer, Rural/Metro Corporation. The 400 first responders, members of Teamsters Local 375, have voted to strike at midnight tonight, due to Rural/Metro’s substandard wage offer – one that the company countered with over the weekend when they offered a higher wage rate to temporary workers.
“It’s outrageous that Rural/Metro is willing to pay temporary EMTs and paramedics more than they are offering us at the bargaining table,” said Kevin Drysdale, Teamsters Local 375 president. “We are dedicated members of the community, but the firm that owns Rural/Metro, the private equity fund Warburg Pincus, doesn’t see it that way.”
At “Taste of Buffalo” Teamster members distributed leaflets that read: “Rural/Metro – a Recipe for Disaster” and focused on mismanagement, unlivable wages and management’s indifference to community needs.
“We are the first responders to accidents and health emergencies in Buffalo – but Rural/Metro would rather pay temporary workers who don’t even live in or near Buffalo a higher wage rate than us,” said one employee who has been an EMT for the past 3 years. “We are part of the community, but the company’s offer is a slap in the face.”
Buffalo City Council passed a Living Wage Ordinance in 2002 which requires certain employers hired by the city to pay a living wage. Rural/Metro Corporation currently pays the EMTs and paramedics less than the Buffalo living wage, and less than it pays its workers in other parts of Western New York. Rural/Metro is wholly owned by the Wall Street private equity firm Warburg Pincus.
State Sen. Timothy Kennedy, 63rd district, wrote to Rural/Metro in support of the EMTs and paramedics. “Frankly, I believe that those in the business of saving lives deserve a living wage,” Kennedy said. “By not negotiating in good faith and by refusing to pay employees a fair wage, the company may put thousands of Western New Yorkers in harm’s way without the essential emergency-response services they need.”
“A strike would be a wake-up call to draw attention to an emergency medical system that is being bled to death by Wall Street investors,” Drysdale said.