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Editor's Note
by Rick Markley, editor-in-chief

Law should protect volunteer firefighters from job loss

The same level of job protection should be afforded volunteer firefighters deployed to disasters as military personnel get

By Rick Markley, FR1 Editor-in-chief

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo did nothing to endear himself to the volunteer firefighting community when he vetoed two bills designed to aid firefighters who are deployed during state or national emergencies.

One bill would have extended workers compensation benefits for those volunteer firefighters and medics injured in the line of duty while deployed for an emergency outside their jurisdiction. The governor said the bill would have imposed undue burden on municipalities.

The other bill called for a level of job protection for those same volunteers when deployed to disasters.

"I laud the sponsor's goal of better facilitating the efforts of volunteers to help with disasters," Cuomo said in a veto message. "However, this bill provides no standard by which an employer could reject an employee's request for leave even if the employee's services were needed."

As it stands, N.Y. volunteers who want to assist on a large-scale disaster could be forced to lose pay, use vacation time or be terminated depending on their employers' disposition.

Service to country and community does not start and end with going off to war as part of the armed services. Fire, EMS, civil defense, Red Cross and a host of other domestic volunteers are difference-makers when disaster strikes.

And in the case of fire and EMS volunteers, they need the same level of job and health care protection that we give our military reservists.

At the tactics level, if the bills were somehow flawed, it should have been fixed in committee meetings or through amendments long before it came to Gov. Cuomo for a signature.

At the strategic level, what Gov. Cuomo either doesn't or won't see is that what makes both country and community strong is the sacrifice others make for the good of the whole.

It is unconscionable that a volunteer firefighter in New York with expertise in urban search and rescue who is willing to commit his energy, knowledge and safety to look for victims of a major earthquake would have to do so at the risk of losing his job. If that firefighter's employer does not understand the value of his employee's sacrifice, he should be compelled by law to honor it.

The interest of business — be it private or municipal — should not be put before the interest of humanity. And by vetoing these bills, that is exactly what New York's governor has done.

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
W John Kolasinski W John Kolasinski Monday, December 23, 2013 8:00:58 PM A Sportshero( Insert any field ) or "Politician" would never do what a Firefighter/Police Officer does on a regular basis. Please prove me wrong!
Rich Benkwitt Rich Benkwitt Monday, December 23, 2013 11:35:00 PM I believe the law should include loca emergencies, not just state and national declarations.
Mike Lery Mike Lery Tuesday, December 24, 2013 6:04:09 AM It's a shame that Mr. Cuomo shares the same "Hurrah for me and screw you" attitude shared by so many in our political and business communities. The answer to the question "Am I my brother's keeper?" is SUPPOSED to be yes. Evidently that's not true. If the bill was flawed Mr. Cuomo could have (should have) raised his objections, made his suggestions and made it know that the bill could be supported. It all comes down to votes and money and unfortunately, Volunteers as a community don't represent enough of either to this Politician. Maybe you'll think differently Mr. Cuomo when someone should be on his/her way to help someone you love...and no one responds.

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