Editor’s Note: On Thursday, November 19, LaborPress and Emblem Health bring you the second half of the 9th Annual LaborPress Heroes of Labor Awards. The virtual event beginning at 2 p.m. will feature a timely discussion with union leaders representing New York City Emergency Services workers. Honorees include Uniformed Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association President Faye Smyth; Uniformed Firefighters Association Local 94 President Andy Ansbro; Uniformed Fire Officers Association, IAFF Local 854 President James “Jake” Lemonda; Local 2507, DC 37, AFSCME President Oren Barzilay; and Local 3621 DC37, AFSCME President Vincent Variale. Click here to register for the event.
New York, NY – Oren Barzilay is the President of Local 2507, Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics, and Fire Inspectors FDNY. The union has more than 4,000 members.
Barzilay was born in Israel in May of 1972. His parents migrated to the United States in his early childhood. He graduated from Forest Hills High School in 1990. He also attended Nassau County community college in 1991 – 92, majoring in Criminal Justice. Barzilay joined the Forest Hills volunteer ambulance corps at the age of 16 while in high school. He enrolled in an EMT class at the age of 17, while still attending high school. While serving the community for a few years, Barzilay knew that EMS was his calling.
He joined NYC EMS in 1995. He was initially assigned to Battalion 16 in Harlem. EMS later merged with the FDNY in 1997. In 1999 he got involved with his union, by attending many union meetings, and he soon found himself becoming a station representative at emergency medical dispatch.
Barzilay met his wife in 2006, which led to their marriage in 2014. Barzilay’s wife was also an FDNY EMT at the time; she is currently a nurse.
Through the years of helping and being heavily engaged with the members of the union, Barzilay was elected to hold numerous roles to lead the men and women of FDNY EMS, which ultimately led Barzilay to his current position of President.
Barzilay talked to LaborPress about some of the effects of COVID-19 on the workforce. He said that for now, until June 2021, the City is holding back on layoffs. The union is short-staffed, however.
“A lot of senior members and some of the young people have resigned; they didn’t want to risk their lives with such low pay. Over 70% left over five years; starting salary is minimum wage,” he said.
Also, initially, the union did not have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that was adequate. Now, the members are waiting to get P100 masks, which have a filter. “Seven months into the pandemic, they’re deciding to give that to us,” says Barzilay.
The pandemic also has taken its toll as far as deaths. “We had four members die from COVID-19, and three committed suicide due to stress.”