By MIKE LEE
After weeks of intense negotiations, the union won a landmark victory for our 9/11 first responders and other members who worked at the World Trade Center site during the rescue, recovery and cleanup.
On Oct. 23, Mayor Bill de Blasio, DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido, Local 3621 President Vincent Variale and Local 2507 President Oren Barzilay announced that the city will provide unlimited 9/11 sick leave to city workers who participated in WTC rescue, recovery and cleanup operations and contracted a 9/11- related illness.
The sick leave will be retroactive to Sept. 11, 2001, and cover an estimated 2,000 active city workers who work in several city agencies, including Emergency Medical Technicians, peace officers, laborers, engineers, among other job titles. The agreement forms a basis for future arrangements with other unions that represent eligible workers.
“This was a team effort,” Garrido said. “I want to thank the mayor, Oren Barzilay and Vincent Variale for their leadership. This gives these dedicated public employees, who sacrificed profoundly at Ground Zero, the sick leave they need and deserve.”
Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Inspectors Local 2507 President Barzilay, said, “Our members can now live in peace knowing they don’t have choose between going to work or getting treated for deadly diseases. We are grateful the city will provide this basic necessity for those who stormed into hell on September 11. I want to thank Senator Marty Golden, Henry Garrido, Mayor de Blasio and all those involved who helped us achieve unlimited sick leave for WTC victims.”
Vincent Variale, Local 3621 president, representing Uniformed EMS Officers, said, “We are proud to have an agreement for our heroes of New York City. This agreement honors their selfless work on 9/11 and in the days, weeks and months that followed.”
As part of the agreement–and following the process in which 9/11 medical determinations are made for firefighters–Emergency Medical Technicians must be diagnosed with a 9/11-related illness by an Fire Dept. of the City of New York medical doctor in the FDNY Bureau of Health Services.
Other city employees will be able to obtain a diagnosis from medical doctors in the World Trade Center Health Program’s Centers of Excellence, created under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010.
For both groups of city employees, any federal certification confirming the diagnosis of a 9/11-related illness that was issued prior to this agreement will qualify them for Unlimited 9/11 Sick Leave. These employees may continue to receive medical treatment from the WTC Health Program’s Clinical Centers of Excellence in which they are enrolled.
In addition, eligible employees need not exhaust existing leave balances before they have access to Unlimited 9/11 Sick Leave, which allows them to use sick leave for a non-9/11 illness over the course of their employment. Any accrued sick leave time that a member has remaining upon retirement will be deducted from the amount of Unlimited 9/11 Sick Leave used.