2 Classes of Firefighters?
NY's Bravest Reject FDNY's NEW Discriminatory Employment Practices
As City Hall Pushes for $13/HR. Minimum Wage - It Believes Permanently Disabled N.Y. City Firefighters Surviving on Just $10,000 year or $27/Day is Acceptable
Hundreds of New York City Firefighters, led by Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy took to the steps of City Hall to address new, discriminatory employment practices of the City of New York and the FDNY. Firefighters say that while the city invested millions of dollars in a multimedia recruitment drive to address a lack of diversity at the agency, promising all new recruits "The Best Benefits," it has instead created a dangerous double standard that threatens public safety.
There are now over 1,400 of the newly hired FDNY firefighters who lack any real disability protections. Should they be burned, seriously injured or paralyzed on the job, the disability protection for a Probationary (Rookie) Firefighter equals only about $10,000 per year or $27 per day. The UFA and firefighters say corrective legislation is urgently needed to address this crisis which stems from a June 2009 veto of New York City Firefighter and Police Tier II disability protections.
"Would you risk your life and health for only $27 a day?" asked UFA President Steve Cassidy. "It's horrific that the top leadership in City Hall is saying that $10,000 a year is all the disability protection that a New York City Firefighter - the best trained firefighter in the world - will receive if permanently disabled on the job. Do they believe disabled firefighters can survive, pay their rent, feed their family and afford to send their children to college on this meager sum? Just last week the mayor demanded a minimum hourly wage of $13/hour in the City of New York, but yet a new, young firefighter protecting the public is only worth a fraction of that if he or she is permanently disabled?"
"For over a year we have sought to correct this dangerous crisis and it has continuously fallen on deaf ears at the highest levels in City Hall. We believe that all New York City Firefighters require equal disability protections should they be burned, seriously injured or even paralyzed in the line of duty, protecting New Yorkers," Cassidy said. "When the FDNY began its recruitment campaign for new firefighters in 2011, it advertised, 'The best job in the world has the best benefits in the world.' However, the City of New York failed to warn its newest firefighters, just don't get hurt in the line of duty!"
Since a federal judge's ruling, the FDNY has graduated over 1,400 new firefighters with more than 46% of those being Black, Latino, Asian and female firefighters. The UFA, together with the FDNY's fraternal societies say it is morally reprehensible for city leaders to demand firefighters risk their lives every day without having fair and adequate disability coverage.
When any firefighter is rushing into a burning building, their sole focus should be on doing their job and saving lives, not worrying about what may happen to their families if they are seriously injured.
FF John Coombs, Immediate Past President of FDNY Vulcan Society said, "As firefighters, we are constantly responding to emergencies and as a result, we should be focused on the task at hand, which is the emergency. I really wouldn't want anyone's focus to be elsewhere. If someone is concerned about a potential injury, that individual isn't giving his or her all to the task at hand, and that in fact not only endangers that individual but the entire team, because as firefighters, we rely on each other, and most importantly it jeopardizes the lives of the people we are sworn to protect, the citizens of New York City."
Sarinya Srisakul, President of FDNY United Women's Firefighters said, "The issue of the new pension tier is an issue of morality. From natural disasters to tenement fires, men and women firefighters have sacrificed their lives and health to protect our city. The 1,400 recently hired firefighters and those yet to be hired deserve better."
FDNY Hispanic Society President, Lieutenant Jorge Luis Torres, who is also the father of one of those new FDNY Firefighters said, "this job is an extremely dangerous job and we don't have a second to think about this. We need to address the (emergency) incident at the moment and not second guess ourselves. That's what's going on right now in some of these firefighters' minds. Am I taking this chance next to this other firefighter? Am I going in further and am I going to risk my life to save someone else's? This is the first time in my career I started seeing firefighters, to some extent, second guessing and start thinking about that. This is not right and needs to be changed.... As a father of a New York City Firefighter, I question, should he risk his life for $27 a day?"
Lieutenant Steven Lee, President of FDNY Phoenix Society said, "Nearly half the members of the FDNY Phoenix Society are affected by this disability pension issue. The number of members has sharply grown since the diversification efforts by the City in the last exam, and unfortunately these new firefighter have no real disability protections, and this is absolutely unfair. We want to make sure all firefighters have real disability protections if they are permanently disabled."
New FDNY Firefighter Hassan Clark, who joined the FDNY in 2013 said, "I want to be able to do this job without second guessing...I would be more comfortable if the system protected me the way I risk my life to protect other families across New York."
The UFA is urgently requesting the New York City Council pass a Home Rule Message to authorize correcting this crisis for the newest FDNY Firefighters. Following that, the New York State Assembly and the State must pass legislation and then Governor Cuomo must sign it into law.
New York City Firefighters have proven that they will do anything to protect life, but how can City of New York leaders truthfully tell a young firefighter that they will be protected, when that is not the fact?