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Monday, October 02, 2023

Select UF Health Shands dispatchers, paramedics unanimously vote to unionize

The union will negotiate with UF Health for higher wages and improved training and safety protocols

<p>Shands Cancer Hospital and Medical Center is seen.</p>

Shands Cancer Hospital and Medical Center is seen.

Some employees at UF Health Shands Hospital are one step closer to closing pay disparities and improving work conditions.

Dispatchers, flight paramedics and ground paramedics at Shands voted unanimously to unionize Tuesday, citing safety and training concerns as well as differences in pay from other positions in their decision, according to a press release. The 84-member union will bargain with UF Health for higher wages and industry-standard training as it negotiates its first contract.

UF Health didn’t respond to requests for comment on the formation of the union.

Heath Schmidt, a Shands critical care flight paramedic, said the union aims to set wages that will attract the high-caliber applicants Shands demands to upkeep its services. 

Shands paramedics must know how to perform a variety of complex medical procedures in flight, and to retain a staff equipped with that knowledge, Schmidt said. The salary has to match the skillset, he added.

“We really want to increase and be recognized as a professional and be paid what we should be getting paid,” he said. 

Some local paramedics have sought employment with other programs for better pay opportunities, which Schmidt said has hurt recruitment and retention efforts for Shands. A pay increase, he said, would help Shands attract the elite applicant pool it needs. 

John East, a Shands flight paramedic, said in the press release the union will aid in Shands’ goals of medical innovation. The union, he said, reflects an investment in keeping Shands on the “cutting edge” and bettering all departments through collaborative efforts.

The employees formed the union through the Florida division of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The Tampa division of the National Labor Relations Board — a federal agency that secures the employee right to unionize and prevents unfair labor practices — ran the union election.

Vicki Hall, the vice president of AFSCME’s Florida division, said in a press release the unanimous decision is evidence of growing favor toward unionizing.

“This overwhelming show of support for forming a union sends a strong message that frontline workers must be respected and valued for their immeasurable contributions,” she said. 

Contact Heather at Follow her on Twitter @hmb_1013.

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Heather Bushman

Heather Bushman is a fourth-year journalism and political science student and the enterprise elections reporter. She previously wrote and edited for the Avenue desk and reported for WUFT News. You can usually find her writing, listening to music or writing about listening to music. Ask her about synesthesia or her album tier list sometime.

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