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N.D. medics unionize; city upset by move

Fire commissioner: "If you want to be union, grab your stuff and go somewhere else guys, because it (isn't) going to work in Williston"

WILLISTON, N.D. — Nearly all of the full-time paramedics in Williston, N.D. have formed a union, a move that city officials are not welcoming.

The Associated Press reported that 13 of the city's 15 full-time paramedics have formed a local chapter with the International Association of Fire Fighters. However, at least one commissioner is challenging the move and telling the members to move elsewhere, according to the report.

The members of the department say they feel "underutilized," and added that most of them have training in firefighting that could help the city in greater capacity, according to the report.

"We would like to ask the city if you guys would like to have a contract with us," Cameron Bradley, a paramedic and member of the union, asked during the meeting, according to a recording provided by the Williston Daily Herald.

Officials told the group they were disappointed and upset about their decision to enter the 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...," said Tate Cymbaluk, the city's police, fire and ambulance commissioner. "... If you want to be union, grab your stuff and go somewhere else guys, because it (isn't) going to work in Williston."

The president of the international association, Harold A. Schaitberger, sent a letter to Cymbaluk on Wednesday countering that North Dakota law does allow public employees to unionize, according to the report.

"Unlawfully threatening and intimidating firefighters for their membership and participation in a union is unacceptable and must cease immediately," Schaitberger wrote.

Cymbaluk said members of the union had the right to organize and the city wouldn't terminate them for joining the union.

"But it doesn't mean we will honor them, however, we still need to honor their needs in the department," Cymbaluk added.

The members of the union want open communication with officials, a safe work environment and some training, according to the report.

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