By GREGORY N. HEIRES
Today, we continue to do whatever we can to help our 9/11 heroes who are struggling with illnesses and fighting to stay alive.
Ever since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, the city had failed to grant thousands of EMS workers and other municipal workers sufficient sick time to deal with afflictions caused by their exposure to toxins at Ground Zero.
Thankfully, this injustice is finally over.
After a series of negotiations with us last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed to provide unlimited sick leave to these workers so they don’t have to choose between lifesaving medical treatment and losing their job.
After exhausting their sick leave, some EMS workers have had to go to work after receiving chemotherapy the same day.
Ensuring this coverage was a matter of fairness, equity — and simply doing what’s right. Firefighters, police officers and sanitation workers have enjoyed an unlimited sick time benefit for years.
Thousands of our 9/11 heroes will benefit
All told, the new benefit will help at least 2,000 city employees who were not covered before — perhaps as many as 4,000 — and is retroactive to the day of the terrorist attack nearly 17 years ago.
Uniformed EMS Officers Union 3621 President Vincent Variale and Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Inspectors Local 2507 President Oren Barzilay should be recognized for their persistence in getting the sick leave benefit for their members.
Besides those who work for Emergency Medical Services at the New York Fire Dept., the newly covered DC 37 members will also include technical and professional workers, tow truck drivers and others who were part of the nine-month cleanup at Ground Zero.
The victory on unlimited sick time reflects the union’s commitment to members who were at Ground Zero when the Twin Towers collapsed and worked there in the ensuing months.
Four of our members lost their lives when two planes hijacked by terrorists slammed into the World Trade Center. Members who worked at the WTC have come down with cancer, respiratory illnesses, post-traumatic stress disorder and other 9/11-related maladies.
One of our priorities is to continue our effort to make sure our members have full access to the World Trade Center Health Program, a program hat monitors the health of those directly effected by 9/11 attacks.
Fighting all the way to continue funding the Zadroga Act
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act established the WTC program and provides funding.
After the initial passage of the bill, we have worked tirelessly with our Congressional representatives to make sure that the U.S. Congress continues to protect our heroes and fund the Zadroga Act.
Along the way, we have had to overcome resistance from Republican Congressional representatives whose penny-pinching belies their patriotic rhetoric.
The World Trade Center Health Program has certified that more than 10,000 firefighters, EMS workers and others have come down with 9/11-related illnesses.
One hundred and sixty-four first responders have died.
We will never forget the New York City workers who risked or lost their lives on Sept. 11.