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After a reported six-month negotiation period that failed to produce a work contract, 60 members of the Teamsters Union Local 542 commenced a strike against Gold Cross Ambulance, a company serving the Imperial County just east of San Diego’s Laguna Mountains on Sunday (July 28).

“It is the hope of Teamsters Local 542 that the company realizes the danger that their actions and position has put the residents of the Imperial County in and that they come back to the table with an offer for their employees that will end this strike as soon as possible,” the union said via a release on Sunday.

The Gold Cross strikers represent ambulance drivers, paramedics, and EMTs who respond to 911 calls across the Imperial Valley. Wages aren’t the only issue, though union president Phil Farias says workers, including paramedics, are paid less than $10 per hour and have had their wages frozen for six years. Employees have also complained about an abusive regional manager and unsafe working conditions, including equipment failure in the ambulances themselves.

“Instead of fixing the problems the company spends its time accusing employees of sabotaging the vehicles,” Farias tells the Reader. “The company’s position has put the citizens of the Imperial County at extreme risk because of the position it has taken.”

Gold Coast recently pulled its most recent proposal, which included raises for workers of $1.25 to $1.40 per hour, awarded gradually over a five-year period, prompting the workers to strike.

“As far as how long [the strike might last], that depends on the company. Our members are prepared to stay out as long as it takes,” Farias says. “One day longer is one day stronger.”

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