Above Photo: Gardiner Anderson/for New York Daily News
Thousands of city frontline workers — including paramedics and emergency medical technicians — plan to boycott Mayor de Blasio’s Hometown Heroes ticker tape parade Wednesday.
Members of FDNY EMS will not be marching up the Canyon of Heroes unless they are on duty and working, union leaders said Tuesday.
“Members who are not paid will not attend,” said Vincent Variale, head of the Uniformed EMS Officers Union, which represents lieutenants and captains.
“Our members have been without a contract for more than three years and did not receive any hazard pay during COVID,” he added. “This mayor continues to disrespect EMS and all frontline responders and uses all of us for a public relations photo opportunity.”
Other city employees share that sentiment.
By Tuesday afternoon almost all of the roughly 60 locals that are part of District Council 37, the city’s largest municipal union, said they are boycotting the parade.
“District Council 37 members were the essential workers helping New Yorkers get through the COVID-19 pandemic. They showed up when others stayed home,” said DC37 spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein. “Each local making up our union has made their own decision about whether to participate in the parade.”
Many of DC37′s 150,000 members are angry about the city not offering early retirement incentives authorized by the state Legislature last spring.
Only Local 1508, which represents uniformed Parks Department supervisors, is participating.
City correction officers are also joining the boycott, a spokesman for the Correction Officers Benevolent Association said. City probation officers will also join, their union said in a statement.
Brooklyn City Councilman Justin Brannan also will sit out the celebration.
“Out of respect for the EMS workers who’ve gotten nothing but lip service from this city for years, I will not be attending tomorrow’s parade,” Brannan, a Democrat, tweeted.
The FDNY EMS unions said they hope their absence during the Lower Manhattan parade will highlight their push for better pay. City paramedics and EMTs have been working without a contract for three years and are at the bargaining table with the de Blasio administration.
“We believe New York’s brave essential workers should be recognized in a meaningful way, but the public display from the de Blasio administration is all optics and no substance,” said Oren Barzilay, president of the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors union. “It is not the recognition we need, especially for FDNY EMS responders, who make just $16.95 per hour to start.”
Barzilay said the union considers anyone participating in the parade to be crossing a picket line.
“A parade does not supply a home or food on the table for these workers and their families,” he said.
“A parade does not bring this workforce out of the poverty wages they are now being paid. It is far past time that the city gives this workforce the respect they deserve in livable wages. If taxpayer dollars can be allocated to put on this parade, then Mayor de Blasio, you can easily find the means to financially support our FDNY EMT’s, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors.”
Mayor de Blasio did not comment directly on the boycott Tuesday but said a ceremony that was planned following the parade would be “stripped down” because of the heat. A mayoral spokeswoman later clarified that the ceremony is actually canceled.
“Negotiations with the union are ongoing and we’re looking forward to a fair outcome,” said de Blasio spokesman Mitch Schwartz. “We urge all New Yorkers to join us in honoring the frontline heroes who did so much to fight back COVID-19.”
Temperatures are expected to reach 93 degrees in Manhattan when the parade is scheduled.
FDNY EMS members have been working mandatory 12-hour tours since the start of the pandemic and saw their call numbers soar. During the height of the crisis, the members had the “busiest days in their history” responding to 6,500 medical emergencies a day, FDNY officials said.
But EMTs and paramedics have not seen a raise in their wages or any hazard pay, which some of their counterparts who work for private hospitals and ambulance companies did.
The starting salary for an FDNY EMT is $35,254; it can go up to $50,000 in five years. An FDNY firefighter can make more than $100,000 annually after five years with overtime and holiday pay.