I-TEAM confronts Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson about labor battle with EMS union

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CLEVELAND (WJW) --The I-TEAM just went one-on-one with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson asking the questions no one else has asked him about protests in the street concerning city ambulance crews.

We are investigating why the city is fighting in court to block a new contract for the people rushing to your 911 calls to save lives. A labor battle has dragged on for years and turned nasty.

It has led to the EMS union organizing protest marches and rallies on the steps outside the Mayor Jackson's office.

We asked him to give the public an explanation for why it is so important to continue fighting about this. Initially, he said “we’re in negotiations with them.”

But we reminded the mayor that it’s not really negotiating at this point. The city took the union to court.

“We’re in an appeals process, and we will not comment on that appeals process," he said in reply.

When we asked for the main issue at the heart of the dispute, he answered, “We’ve chosen not to go to court in public. They have chosen to go to court in public.”

EMS workers argue an arbitrator and a judge approved a new contract, yet the city has appealed.

The union said a new contract would give paramedics and other EMS workers counseling and mental health help to deal with the horrors they see, especially at crime scenes. But with no new contract, there's no new help.

We pointed out to the mayor that the workers see it as the city not caring about their mental health.

“Well again, that’s how they want to frame it," he said.

The I-TEAM went to county court to dig up what’s behind the city's fight against EMS. Records show the city claims the first ruling on the contract was made with  “contradictions”, “mistakes” and “gross negligence”.

So how long will the city spend your tax dollars fighting this?

“We will do what is in the best interests of the citizens of Cleveland and our employees," said Mayor Jackson.

EMS workers consider it already too late for that.

This week, union members overwhelmingly passed a vote of “no confidence” in the city’s EMS Commissioner. Union members said they’ve been forced to struggle with short-staffing, poor equipment and more.

No telling how long the latest court battle over the new contract will go on before it’s resolved.

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