Over the weekend news broke that paramedics working for the Williston Fire Department had organized a union. At least one local official didn’t take it so well:
The Williston Fire Department lacks a leader and has low morale.
Thirteen of the 15 full-time career paramedics expressed their concern over the past month, organizing a local chapter with the International Association of Fire Fighters, which represents nearly 300,000 firefighters and first responders in the United States and Canada.
Members of Local 3743 told Commissioner Tate Cymbaluk and several captains and battalion chiefs, they entered the union two weeks ago. Paramedics said they felt “underutilized” and most have training in firefighting and can help the city in greater capacity.
“We would like to ask the city if you guys would like to have a contract with us,” said Cameron Bradley, a paramedic and member of the union, asked during the meeting, according to a recording provided to the Williston Herald.
Cymbaluk and department heads said they didn’t realize there was a lack of communication and were disappointed and upset the paramedics entered into a union.
“We’re a non-union state. We’re going to stay that way. We’re going to follow what the state says is right at this point. ..,” Cymbaluk said. “… If you want to be union, grab your stuff and go somewhere else guys, because it [isn’t] going to work in Williston.”
Cymbaluk said he had talked with City Attorney Peter Furuseth about the matter. “He said if they want to quit, tell them to quit,” Cymbaluk said.
A union boss for the IAFF has since sent Commissioner Cymbaluk a letter informing him that unions are, in fact, allowed in North Dakota, and accusing the commissioner of harassing these workers for forming a union which is their constitutionally protected right.
Like unions or hate them, workers do and should have the right to organize.
But suspicion of organized labor runs deep in North Dakota, and you have to wonder if these paramedics have helped or hurt their cause.