Union Speaks Out for Sick Time for WTC Heroes

By MIKE LEE
In a recent hearing before the New York State Senate Civil Service and Pensions Committee, several DC 37 local leaders and members called upon legislators to give city workers the sick time they need as a result of the work they performed at the World Trade Center in the aftermath of 9/11.

Earlier this year, the state Senate passed a bill to extend unlimited sick leave, now received by state and local first responders suffering from 9/11-related illnesses, to city workers. The bill has languished in the state Assembly.

At the hearing, Local 2507 President Oren Barzilay, who leads more than 4,000 uniformed Emergency Medical Technicians, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors, testified that city agencies have made it difficult for sick members — who only earn one day of sick leave a month — to take time off.

“Twelve days a year are not enough for our members who are sick from World Trade Center-related illnesses,” Barzilay said. “It’s simply unacceptable.”

Vincent Variale, president of Local 3621, who represents EMS officers, agrees. “We have members who are sick with respiratory problems who only need a few days off intermittently, and some who are diagnosed with cancer and may need weeks or a month off.”

“Either way our members are not looking for a handout, they want to work and occasionally need some sick time off,” said Variale.

After their testimony, Variale and Barzilay joined other union leaders and advocates at a press conference to demand action to pass the legislation.

State Sen. Martin Golden, the committee’s chair, was outraged: “Shame on us… for allowing this to get to this point. Shame on us as a city and a state. We will correct this injustice.”

The legislation is slated to be reintroduced in Albany at the start of the next term in January.

The DC 37 Blog is an online publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 125,000 municipal employees in New York City. This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Public Employee Press.

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