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American Medical Response employs about 450 paramedics and EMTs in Seattle.
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American Medical Response employs about 450 paramedics and EMTs in Seattle.

Seattle ambulance workers plan to strike just before Christmas

Hundreds of EMTs could go on strike in Seattle just before Christmas.

The emergency workers say their employer, American Medical Response, doesn't pay them a livable wage and has refused their contract proposals for raises.

They're represented by Teamsters local 763. Teamsters business agent Liz Brown said many of the EMTs make close to minimum wage.

"We've had members who have had to rely on charity medical care, we've had members who have had to rely on public assistance. They're a key part of our healthcare system, and yet they can't afford to care for their families," Brown said.

She said the strike will start December 21 if the company doesn't re-start bargaining before then.

AMR said it did offer its Seattle employees a raise recently, but can't provide the higher wages that EMTs are demanding.

The company said it could bring in workers from other cities if a strike happens.

AMR's employees in Seattle predominantly provide hospital transport services, while the Seattle Fire Department provides most paramedic services. Seattle Fire Department medics respond to the majority of life-threatening calls to 911.

Brown said the EMTs are in their line of work because they care deeply about patient care, but their wages make it difficult to live in Seattle.

"It's not easy for them to take a step like this, but they also need to be able to care for themselves and their own families," she said.

A spokesperson for the Seattle mayor's office said they're also working on contingency plans to ensure ambulance service isn't interrupted. Those plans have not been made public.