New York City’s medical first responders, are speaking out on behalf of a quarter-million city retirees, saying they are fed up and aren’t going to take it anymore.
The Big Apple’s EMT’s and Paramedics, part of the Fire Department of the City of New York, are the busiest emergency services organization in the globe, managing an estimated 2 million medical emergencies each year. Its 4,000 active members belong to Local 2507, the union for FDNY EMTs, paramedics, and fire inspectors.
Vastly underpaid, understaffed and overworked, the union leadership has come out in solidarity with city retirees, announcing strong opposition to Gotham Mayor Eric Adams’ and fellow union’s District Council 37, United Federation of Teachers, and the Municipal Labor Committee’s (MLC) effort to push 250,000 New York City municipal retirees, from across all job classifications onto, what they call “an inferior and profit driven Medicare Advantage plan.”
The union and city retirees claim that until recently, the city had promised payment for Medicare supplemental plan premiums for retirees, as it has over the last 55 years. The city is seeking to save what it says is some $600 million annually, by tapping into federal subsidies it can capture for offering its retirees access to these programs.
Oren Barzilay, who is president of FDNY Local 2507 said, “On behalf of our members and retirees, I voted against this scheme, as the Municipal Labor Committee considered it. The City Administrative Code (12-126) gives us equal protection in terms of having our current health benefits. The facts remain that city retirees surrendered wages and other benefits during their working years to fund their future health coverage. Now in retirement, after they have already provided decades of their labor, and working under the premise that they would be protected in retirement, we should not begin the practice of retroactively rewriting the rules and taking back earned benefits they already bought and paid for.”
New York City’s retired FDNY EMTs and Paramedics are veterans of countless lifesaving, emergency medical trauma situations, but unfortunately don’t have the ability to treat themselves.
Mr. Barzilay continued, “This sets a horrific precedent for Labor, by opening the barn doors up for the city to come in and erode retirees’ economic security now and perhaps the next time there is some manufactured crisis. Municipal retirees, especially my members survive on thin, fixed pensions, many under $35,000. Our union’s history is to protect retirees, not to barter away their retirement security. There are other options and labor can and should do a better job of evaluating, before relying on this idea that likely violates the law or by retroactively altering laws as an end-around of the court system.”
FDNY Local 2507 was one of the first unions to publicly dissent with the MLC and DC37 position to move seniors and disabled members into Medicare Advantage and change the Administrative Code 12-126 to get around the New York State Appellate Court’s (the state’s highest court) decision.
The leaders of the union say they will continue to support New York City’s ad-hoc Organization of Public Service Retirees fight to convince the New York City Council to desist a change to City Administrative Code 12-126, which has protected the healthcare benefits of City workers and retirees for over five decades.