Rural Metro Paramedics, EMTs Picket for Higher Wages

Several dozen paramedics and EMTs hit the picket line Thursday, arguing for higher wages. They say they earn less money than fast food workers.

With chants like “Highly trained, lowest paid” during their informational picket, the group protested their employer Rural Metro, a company that provides medical services for the city of San Diego.

This week, the vocal paramedics and their union overwhelmingly rejected a new contract offer from Rural Metro, which called for a 17.6 percent wage increase over four years.

That is not enough, the group said, because they make salaries starting around $13 an hour for long, hard work. EMTs make $10 an hour when they start.

“Just to make ends meet, we have to work extra hours,” said paramedic Philomena Zangar. “There's not possible way to keep up in San Diego with the cost of living with what we're paid.”

The spokesman for Rural Metro, Michael Simonsen, said the majority of the company’s workforce does not support this protesting group or its union.

“Remember, it’s not just the wage. It's also the health benefits; it's also the vacation time, sick leave and everything else that comes with it,” Simonsen said.

Union representatives say they do, in fact, have majority support and any talk otherwise is meant to distract from the real issue.

No matter what, it’s all about paying fair wages, said union President Jennifer Restle.

“We want people to know that Rural Metro should be fair and pay us a livable wage,” she said. “Most of us, 340 of 420 employees make less than $15 saving lives.”

On Monday, the San Diego City Council is set to vote on renewing its contract with Rural Metro. The picketers would like to see that vote delayed for 60 days, until the company can come to an agreement with its staff.

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