PMT Ambulance Company Gets Smacked Down by a National Labor Relations Board Judge — and We Mean Smacked

It isn't every day that an administrative law judge issues a decision so juicy that it's read all the way to the end — much less pored over with highlighters, schadenfreude, and the occasional "Oh, no he di'int!"

But Judge William G. Kocol's recent decision in a National Labor Board Relations Board case pitting a Tempe-based ambulance company against its union is just such a document.

And the 29-page decision, issued last month, isn't just filled with fascinating detail: It could also mean big trouble for Professional Medical Transport, better known as PMT.

Joshua Barkley took on PMT — and won.
Michael Ratcliff
Joshua Barkley took on PMT — and won.

Not only did Judge Kocol find that PMT repeatedly engaged in unfair labor practices, he ordered the company to make major changes to its operations. Among the proscribed remedies: back pay for union members deprived of overtime, compensation for employees affected by a change in healthcare plans, and an order to cease and desist from nearly a dozen "unfair labor" practices, including putting surveillance cameras in employees' living quarters.

And, yes, cameras are among the highlighter-worthy details. PMT protested that it never actually turned on the cameras — but, really, talk about intimidation!

But if the surveillance cams have people talking, it's Judge Kocol's evisceration of PMT's president, Bob Ramsey, that's really generating buzz.

The lawyer prosecuting the case for the National Labor Relations Board had protested to Judge Kocol that Ramsey's testimony was "confused and rambling."

Wrote Judge Kocol, "I agree. I find Ramsey's testimony to be wholly incredible. He appeared to be fabricating it as he testified." Damn!

There's more. The union had claimed that PMT unilaterally took away shifts from employees represented by the union (a.k.a. full-timers) and gave them to moonlighting firefighters (a.k.a. part-timers).

PMT managers, like Ramsey, disputed that in court testimony. So did the company's director of human resources and director of staffing. Even though a bunch of firefighters were hired just as PMT began experiencing labor trouble, both directors testified that they didn't even remember the firefighters coming on board, much less know what impact that might have on full-time workers.

Here's what Judge Kocol had to say about that: "I find the testimony of [the two PMT managers] so incredible that I am reluctant to credit anything they said without credible corroboration."

Wow.

I called PMT to see how it'd explain all this away.

But apparently even this company knows better than to argue with a judge — much less a legal decision this pointed.

PMT's only comment was to note that the company has until December 7 to file an appeal.


As I reported in August, Tempe-based PMT has enjoyed major growth in the past four years — in part because of its strong relations with the union that represents municipal firefighters.

In 2005, PMT's owner, Ramsey, formed a partnership with Pat Cantelme, and the company began to challenge the area's biggest ambulance company, Southwest Ambulance. PMT now has contracts with Scottsdale, Tempe, and half of Chandler.

Cantelme's union ties were part of that success. For 20 years, he'd been president of the powerful Local 493 union, which represents firefighters from Tempe to Peoria. His popularity with firefighters was important, politically: It's cities that contract with ambulance companies for service, but it's firefighters whom city leaders listen to when figuring out which ambulance company to choose.

Under Cantelme's management, PMT further sweetened the pot with firefighters by implementing a business model that included part-time ambulance jobs for them.

But as hungry as local firefighters may be for cash, they're going to have a hard time justifying employment at PMT in light of Judge Kocol's ruling. Not only does Kocol point out the aggressive techniques PMT used to keep its fledgling union down, he clearly shows how the company used part-time help from firefighters to do it.

When the union started raising hell, in fact, PMT fought back by cutting overtime for union members — shifting much of the work over to firefighters.

So much for the union brotherhood . . .

More than anyone else, the judge's ruling is a major victory for Joshua Barkley. A former firefighter in Apache Junction, Barkley formed a completely independent union, the Independent Certified Emergency Professionals of Arizona, with PMT's full blessing. It was only when he proved serious about fighting for his members that relations with PMT management turned ugly.

As Judge Kocol found, PMT was soon employing just about every dirty trick it could to stop Barkley. It took away his BlackBerry. It attempted to keep an employee roster out of his hands. It changed healthcare benefits without consulting the union, refused to negotiate with union leadership, and put up those security cams to keep everyone a little paranoid about union activity. It threatened to remove at least one employee from active duty because of his union activity.

Last summer, PMT even sued Barkley for defamation.

Through it all, Barkley fought, without the support of a national organization, a lawyer, or even a dues-paying membership. (PMT, naturally, refused to let Barkley collect money via direct deposit.)

The long fight surely makes this month's ruling even more satisfying.

Of course, any time a guy gets sued for defamation, it tends to shut him up, and Bark­ley proved no exception. He wanted to limit his remarks to a prepared statement.

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24 comments
Not part of THEIR brotherhood
Not part of THEIR brotherhood

Bob Ramsey and Pat "Can't tell Me shit because I walk on water" are dinosaurs from another age. They fattened themselves off the good old boys network while this city was growing and now their shady practices are catching up to them. Their problem is that they know no other way to do business, if that's what you want to call it. Ethics, morals, fair treatment, employee satsifaction and customer service are not in their lexicon. Me first, what's in it for us, to hell with anyone who complains, profit is the bottom line and I'm only in it for the money ARE in their vocabulary and business plan.Bob and Pat, go fuck yourselves!

Heather
Heather

I worked for PMT for 2 years as a new medic, and if it did anything for me, it made me wonder why I ever went to medic school in the first place. PMT is NOT a great company to work for. There's a reason why I have friends who are still working there, who hate their jobs, and dread going to work every day. They know that management doesn't care an ounce about them, and that they are simply a dime a dozen. I was thrown under the bus NUMEROUS times by this company, even though I worked my ass off for them. I never called out, showed up every day on time, worked OT for them when they were desperate, and most importantly, provided the best patient care I was capable of providing. With PMT it has nothing to do with the patient, and everything to do with making more $$$ for Bob. If a "nurse" at a nursing home or urgent care feels that you undermined her by providing patient care onscene before a transport, which the patient NEEDED under our written protocols, she calls and complains, and YOU the medic get in trouble for simply doing your job. Their idea of "customer service" is making sure the facility who called for your glorified taxi service is happy, and has nothing to do with a patient getting the help that they need. I was basically forced to leave the company, but I can honestly say that the day I walked away from that company for the very last time, was the best day of my life. Employees are treated like DIRT. If you do anything to piss of one member of management, you better watch out, cuz your ass is the next one on the chopping block. Now I work for a company that treats it's employees with respect, and like we are a necessary vital part of the team. The patient is put first, as it should be, and we care for them, like we would a member of our own family. While I am sure that no company is perfect, there is certainly a reason why I have numerous friends chomping at the bit to apply for positions with us when they open, so they can leave PMT and SWA behind, as a mere bad memory. To "Jesse"... just wait til you're the next one to make a mistake, and see how that company stands behind you... the employee. There will be no problem for them to find another EMT or Medic who will do their bidding for a measly $13/hr, and your ass will be out of a job.

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

Thanks to Ms. Fenske for this great article. For every such story reported, many thousands, or tens of thousands, go unaddressed by the authorities AND unreported. The bottom line is that unscrupulous employers will do whatever they think they can get away with, or, even if they aren't sure, will take a calculated risk in which the likelihood of potential losses is weighed against the potential gains, and judged as a "cost of doing business".

The only solution to this problem is rigorous enforcement of labor laws (which in turn requires both sufficient enforcement resources and budgets, as well as will on the part of federal administrators), until employers have a rational basis for viewing the risk as a bad one instead of an acceptable one. A few high profile cases like this help, but simply aren't enough.

Longrod Vonhugendong
Longrod Vonhugendong

Anyone that worked for Bob knows what Bob is. Pat C. is also the same. Bob is a lying cheating dirtbag. It's a shame that what he did to SWA for years, is now cycling through PMT. There are many good people that work for both companies, but I'm glad I got out when I did. I saw the writing on the wall and quickly made haste. I always enjoyed the job I have no complaints about my career path or my profession. But both SWA and PMT are just dysfunctional companies. SWA with Bob sucked, and I truly can't say it improved when Rural took over. At least with Bob you knew where you stood. I thank all those guys in the I-60 for those raises and fighting for us. I wish the best for the PMT folks. But there are better places to work out there. Tax based or private, both have good and bad points. I think this is truly one of those situations where the local Gov't should have the authority of taking over their OWN interests for THEIR OWN CITIZENS, and provide the level of service they fit without the worry of padding wallets for the sake of patient care. Until that happens, there will be a never ending revovling door of EMS workers, (which is encouraged by both entities). This way it keeps your workforce low paid and ignorant.

AZJayMan
AZJayMan

Mrs. A should have my job at Walmart if she wants to see and hear employees being treated badly. Walmart has the absolute worst of everything. As for the guy from GA, who says "typical PHX corruption".... Shut the freakin hole in your face! Not every citizen of AZ is corrupt. AZ has decent city government. Great story.

FormerRepublican
FormerRepublican

Joshua Barkley, you are a hero in a state that has few. Congratulations on your win and never giving up. It's people like you who give others hope in their struggles against the corruption that controls the people of Arizona.

FormerRepublican
FormerRepublican

Sarah, Once again, great investigative work on these shady Arizona companies. You continue to make a difference. The archives are building daily. Who in Arizona has ANY credibility.

Thanks for keeping them honest and whacking them out of the weeds!

Chris Long
Chris Long

Typical Phx corruption story...

Like, what else is new ?

Jesse
Jesse

That article you posted was written in April Josh....

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06...

this one is more reflective on current events i believe. And yes, i do love working here and i am willing to fight for this company. What im trying to understand is how anyone thinks that creating a rift between management and employees is beneficial to a company as a whole. ITS NOT. if this company of ours fails, who will you blame? The PMT management team or the employees that dont care about OUR companies future? HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE! Im off to work. :)

joshua
joshua

http://www.leftlanenews.com/us...

http://online.wsj.com/public/r...

PMT offers none of what you see in UAW'S "reduced" contract.Its all available now Jesse..but let's digress. I understand that you love working at PMT and so do I. Our union files complaints when complaints are valid. The judge agreed.

If you would like copies of the promises your management team made in a public forum, ie: 20 year pensions, a contract that meets or exceeds I-60"s (which I have), a holistic family oriented working environment, A leader in EMS and "Gem" of a company, Email me at coachjbar@yahoo.com and I will send them to you for your review. If you feel that our actions are detrimental to you and your core values,you have a right to abstain, and you can even donate the benefits back to the company or to a benevolent fund. That way all are served.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ONE AND ALL. I HOPE YOUR TURKEY IS COOKED TO PERFECTION AND YOUR FAMILY IS HAPPY AND HEALTHY.THIS IS A GREAT START TO THE HOLIDAY SEASON.LOVE ALL SERVE ALL!

JOSH

Jesse
Jesse

Actually Joshua, your facts are wrong. The UAW owns 17.5% of GM shares.

joshua
joshua

UAW owns 39% of GM.

Jesse
Jesse

Just for the record, i know that many, if not most, of the people who work for PMT care about the patients they transport. My problem is with people crying about needing more money, better benefits and the like. The entry level EMT makes almost the same amount as a teacher makes in the state of Arizona. Think about that for a second. Teachers have a right to bitch about how much they make, not some kid, fresh out of high school who still doesnt know how to wrap a nasal canula around someones face. And for any of you who really are working in the field for PMT, if your 3-7 transports a day is too much for you, go find another job. Heck, maybe you could find a job at General Motors. The union really worked well for those guys.....

Conrad
Conrad

Cantelme and Ramsey are not just going after Barkley.The rumor on the street is they are going after their own 493 IAFF bothers who had the courage to stand up against their attempts to get into the Phoenix 911 ambulance system. Someone should go talk to those guys! Why does the IAFF condone this behavior of a union breaking company? Wolfman

Joshua
Joshua

"Jesse" (P,M.T management team) illustrates what exactly is wrong with the Private Ambulance Industry. He obviously does not work in the field and uses the economy as an argument to strip EMS providers of their health care and benefits, while kicking them to the curb when they are sick or injured. You represent dinosaur management points of view and a Philosophy of mandatory subservience, take it or leave it. You have reneged on your part of the bargain and now belittle the efforts and results of the NLRB and an Independent Union. It is you that will be looking for something else to do with your life since you have failed so miserably at your current assignment.

I would like to thank all of the Strong individuals who stayed the course through this whole ordeal. I would also like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and a great start to the holiday season.

j_in_mesa
j_in_mesa

'Jesse', if that's his real name, is obviously a flack for Bob Ramsey and Starwest Associates. It would have been fun to see Joy squirming on the stand in court, though.

john 4 icepaz
john 4 icepaz

Jesse? What are you talking about? Dont work hard? Every Emt and Medic that works for PMT that actually cares, works very hard every shift to ensure excellent patient care. Not taught or encouraged by pmt, but on our own will to do right for the community. This is a giant leap forward in a positive direction for all (full-time) employees working underneath PMT's "professionl" management Gestapo....

Mrs A
Mrs A

This is the best news I have had all day! I worked for this company for years and wondered if I would ever see the day Bob Ramsey got what he had coming to him, the employee Jesse in the comment above mine must be new to PMT! A great place to work? not by a long shot!! I was not a Medic, I worked in the billing department and they are treated the same way and believe me the cameras are on and now with sound, the things that came out of that mans mouth were appauling and one thing Jesse is correct on is yes these medics went into this field to help people not be verbally abused and intimadated to do so!!!! I Had NEVER seen anything like this place before and hope I NEVER do again...I Have always said how disgusting it is that they are suppose to be a part of this community that cares about people and helps them and yet they treat their employee's worse than dogs!!

jesse
jesse

You cant always believe everything you read. I work for PMT and believe me, this is a GREAT company to work for. It puzzles me that a bunch of grown men and women who consider themselves EMS professionals would cry about their wages, the hours you work, etc. Be happy that you have a job! You came into this line of work to help people, right? If you dont like it, find something else to do with your life. Seriously, its not like we really work. We drive people around all day, most of whom can walk on their own. What a tough job....

Coz
Coz

As a National and State licensed EMT going on to Paramedic, this kind of business practice gives us all a bad name.

Businesses like PMT don't belong in such an honorable field of practice.

They give us all a bad name.

Pat R
Pat R

Fire Fighters need to start supporting their Union Brothers and Sisters. This makes FF look bad. This has gone on too long. Word is that one of the owners wants out, but the other is forcing him to stay or he will sue. Nice way to destroy your reputation.

Brother
Brother

I urge all firefighters to stop moonlighting with PMT...we need to turn our back on a corrupt company. They are mistreating our union brothers and are unrepented. Cantelme was once a union god but has sold his soul to Ransey. Barkley, I give you credit for staying in the fight for justice. you have fought the good fight and won.

Again, it's time for my union brothers to boycott PMT...this will send the desired message necessary for meaningful change.

old SWA employee
old SWA employee

Bob Ramsey was a slimeball when he operated SouthWest Ambulance back in the day. I'm suprised someone hasn't taken him out yet.

 
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