NYC EMTs, paramedics to boycott Hometown Heroes ticker tape parade honoring COVID first responders

By Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News | July 6, 2021

New York City EMTs will boycott the Hometown Heroes ticker tape parade honoring COVID first responders and essential workers, union leaders said Tuesday.

Members of Local 2507 hope their absence during Wednesday’s parade down Broadway’s Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan will highlight their push for better pay. EMS unions haven’t had a new contract with the city for three years.

“The members will not be attending,” a spokeswoman for Local 2507 told the Daily News. “Any EMS personnel there would be assigned to work the event.”

Members of the Uniformed EMS Officer’s Union will also not attend the parade, the group’s president, Vincent Variale, confirmed.

“Members who are not paid will not attend,” Variale said. “Our Local is not supporting the parade.”

“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 front line responders and uses all of us for a public relations photo opportunity.”

Both the unions are in the middle of contract negotiations with the city.

“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 Local 2507. “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.”

The decision to boycott comes after Local 2507 members blasted the parade last week, saying that they would rather have bonuses or raises instead of a ticker-tape parade.

“It felt like a joke, like a slap in the face,” Paramedic Liana Espinal, 36, a 13-year EMS veteran from Brooklyn said about the parade, which is scheduled to be held on lower Broadway’s Canyon of Heroes. “We don’t want a parade. We want to be able to take care of our families.”

EMS members worked mandatory 12-hour tours during the pandemic and saw their caseloads soar. During the height of the pandemic, EMS 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 EMT is $35,254; it can go up to $50,000 in five years. An FDNY member after five years on the job can make more than $100,000 annually with overtime and holiday pay.