Mike Greco was concerned. At the beginning of March 2020, New York City had confirmed his first case of Covid-19 and the vice president of Local 2507, the union that represents the city’s emergency services (EMS) workers, knew how overworked and exhausted EMS workers already were. At a special hearing of the city council On March 5, he testified that EMS is already handling 1.5 million calls a year. “If you had half a million calls left in a pandemic, you would be overwhelmed by the system,” he said.
Weeks later, the city’s 911 system was flooded. Received it on March 30th more than 6,500 calls, the busiest day ever, surpassing September 11, 2001. Response times were slow and families waited in agony for ambulances. Greco worked for months from 7 am by midnight to ensure that paramedics and paramedics have access to personal protective equipment.
Hundreds of rescue workers and paramedics from the New York Fire Department (FDNY) contracted Covid-19 last spring, and the city relied on reinforcements from across the country. Until the end of 2020 five paramedics and paramedics at the FDNY had died of Covid-19. Three more died by suicide.
“Treatment for EMS has left the city completely unprepared,” Greco, a 13-year EMS veteran in New York City, recently told me. “That March 5th prophecy was not a great prophecy. We have been shouting from the rooftops for many, many years that the city should be prepared for the worst possible event.”
Rescue workers in NYC have been protesting low wages and what they see as disregard for the city government since the 1980s. Mayors from Ed Koch to Bill de Blasio have said that EMS work is “different” than policing or firefighting, which means that the pay gap is a result of skill levels or the dangers one is exposed to at work. In the minds of paramedics and paramedics, however, the past year should have erased any notion that their work was less valuable or less dangerous than that of other first responders. ”
Today’s rescue workers and paramedics say low wages are driving them out of the job. The EMS collective agreement expired in 2018, and negotiations, which have been suspended due to the pandemic, have started again. Workers say the city’s emergency medical system will be more fragile than ever if the new contract doesn’t raise wages and improve conditions.
After five years, rescue workers only make $ 50,604 and paramedics $ 65,226. For comparison after the same period Firefighters Take $ 85,292 home and you can earn an additional $ 25,631 in overtime, vacation pay, better retirement plans and unlimited sick leave. The union says inequality is also a question of racial justice: fifty-nine percent of the EMS workforce are colored people 77 percent of New York City firefighters are white.