EMS unions to mayor: Support unlimited sick leave for our 9/11 responders

Stephon Johnson | 9/20/2018, 11:52 a.m.
Two unions representing emergency medical service workers called out the mayor for abandoning them.

Two unions representing emergency medical service workers called out the mayor for abandoning them.

Local 2507, the union that represents more than 4,000 fire inspectors, paramedics and medical technicians, and Local 3621, the union that represents more than 500 uniformed EMS officers, testified at a hearing at 250 Broadway Monday. Union members called for state legislation that would grant workers affected by the aftermath of/recovery from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks unlimited sick time.

That same time, union members gathered at City Hall to speak to the media and called for the mayor to support unlimited sick leave for the responders who suffered health ailments as a result of working at Ground Zero.

“Our members put their lives on the line on 9/11 and in the weeks and months afterward. They deserve the strongest possible health care, particularly as many of them battle personal health challenges as a result of their heroism,” said Vincent Variale, president of Local 3621, in a statement. “We commend Governor Cuomo for his support and urge the Mayor to rethink his resistance and offer EMS the same sick leave benefits accorded to other uniformed professionals in New York City.”

Police officers, firefighters and other non-EMS uniformed service members have already received unlimited sick time because of 9/11-related illnesses. Last year, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law that provided unlimited sick leave to first responders outside of New York City. This year, the governor wrote a column for the New York Daily News blasting the city’s resistance to including EMS workers in their unlimited sick time measure.

“We need Mayor de Blasio to stand up and do what is right for the men and women who served our country proudly in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack our city and nation has ever suffered,” stated Local 2507 President Oren Barzilay in a statement. “By preventing unlimited sick time to EMS professionals affected by 9/11, the Mayor has delivered a clear message that he devalues their bravery.”

The New York State Senate recently passed legislation to expand unlimited sick leave to EMS workers, but the Assembly didn’t because of de Blasio’s objection. In a statement, the mayor said he hoped to find a solution to the issue as soon as possible.

“New Yorkers who responded to the attacks on 9/11 and its aftermath are heroes,” stated de Blasio. “Their service helped us rebound stronger and more resilient than ever. I am committed to working with these brave men and women to get them the help they are owed by our City. I am confident we’ll find a solution that fully honors their service and sacrifices.”

De Blasio administration officials explained their objections to the bill in a legislative memo saying that offering unlimited sick leave to 9/11 EMS workers would bring “an unknown cost” to the city. But Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato said legislators should stand by emergency employees no matter what.

“The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were a defining moment in the history of New York State and the entire country,” stated Amato. “The tremendous loss caused by this unspeakable act was most acutely felt by the many citizens of our great state and city. Those who risked their lives without hesitation running into those burning buildings and those who served by returning in the aftermath to save the lives of others, exposed themselves to dangerous chemicals and toxins that have lasting effects.”

Amato concluded, “Effects that now, 17 years later, are killing many of our brave first responders, some of whom are not covered by unlimited sick leave.”