Just days before the 15th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks on our nation and just blocks from the World Trade Center, Governor Andrew Cuomo today signed into law a restoration of real disability protections for all New York City fire fighters. He was joined by Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) Local 94 President Steve Cassidy, the union’s executive board and more than 500 fire fighters.
The new law will grant real disability protections for 2,300 current FDNY fire fighters and all future fire fighters. The union waged a multi-year campaign to achieve the restoration.
“Fire fighters put their lives on the line every day to keep New Yorkers safe, and we must do everything we can to support them and their families,” Governor Cuomo said. “By restoring the three-quarter pension retirement plan, we are providing our heroes with the financial stability that they need and deserve.This legislation corrects an inequality against New York City’s Bravest that has gone on for far too long, and I am proud to sign it into law today.”
“With this critical legislation, New York City fire fighters who put their lives on the line protecting the public will never have to worry about leaving themselves and their families destitute should they be seriously injured in the line of duty,” said UFA President Steve Cassidy. “All New Yorkers are now safer because of the restoration of these necessary benefits. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for once again proving himself to be a great champion of New York’s Bravest.”
In June 2009, then-Governor David Paterson vetoed the New York City fire fighter and police Tier II extender bill, leaving fire fighters hired after that time with as little as $10,000 per year, or just $27 a day, in total disability protection should they become permanently disabled in the line of duty. The impact was fully felt after 2013 when the City of New York, following an FDNY hiring freeze, began hiring more than 2,300 new fire fighters.
The UFA sprang into action, leading the charge to restore full disability protections for all new and future FDNY fire fighters. The campaign spotlighted how the lack of disability protection would negatively affect public safety, as well as the new fire fighters, approximately 50 percent of whom were minorities.
“When a fire alarm sounds, New York City fire fighters jump into action without hesitation, putting their health and well-being aside to protect those in need,” said Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “The sacrifices fire fighters make aren’t based on their hire date, but on their commitment to saving lives. I commend President Steve Cassidy and the UFA for their work in restoring the disability pension protections, and ensuring that fire fighters who are injured in the line of duty receive the financial assistance they need and deserve. The law signed by Governor Cuomo today will go a long way to support New York’s Bravest, who selflessly protect our city.”
As part of the UFA effort, dozens of the new fire fighters’ stories were chronicled in a 2015 UFA report: “Correct FDNY’s Discriminatory Employment Practices” and narrated within two 60-second videos: “$27 A Day” and “Recruiting Lies.”
Throughout 2015, the UFA held countless high-profile events, including one at the state capitol featuring Cuomo as keynote speaker on June 10, 2015. Then in August 2015, Mayor Bill de Blasio added his support of the disability restoration as part of the UFA contract settlement with the city. The city council passed a Home Rule message with the support of Fire & Criminal Justice Chair Elizabeth Crowley and Speaker Mark-Viverito. State legislation A10567/S08015, sponsored by Assemblyman Peter J. Abbate Jr. and Senator Martin Golden, passed unanimously at the close of the 2016 legislative session. That legislation became law today.
Senator Martin Golden said, “Each day our brave fire fighters are ready to run toward danger and put their lives on the line to save others. Many times these brave men and women are hurt in the line of duty. It is our responsibility to ensure our heroes have strong disability protections so they do not have to worry about the financial and medical burdens of being injured. I want to thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law and saying loud and clear that New York state takes care of its heroes.”
Assemblyman Peter Abbate said, “Restoring equity among the brave men and women who go on disability within New York City’s fire department was one of my top legislative priorities, and I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this bill into law. Fire fighters who serve the city valiantly deserve to be treated fairly and this legislation will ensure that they receive their full ¾ disability benefits no matter when they started working.”