This is an op-ed written by Jasmine Myrick, a former Bangs employee. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit op-eds, send them to Matt Butler at mbutler@ithacavoice.com.

What is your first thought when you think of an ambulance? Some people think of flashing lights, or the sounds of sirens and horns. Some people think of first responders and emergency medicine. In Ithaca, most think of the familiar blue and white stripes of Bangs Ambulance. 

Bangs Ambulance was the place where I spent most of my twenties. For seven years I worked countless hours honing my skills as an EMT, learning how to be an empathetic medical provider, all while igniting a passion for community and public health. While working at Bangs, I met the best people I’ve ever known. Those experiences were some of the best and most memorable times of my life. 

Those seven years are why I can confidently say that Bangs Ambulance should unionize

Those of us who work in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) have long known what the public is just learning; EMTs and Paramedics are underpaid, overworked, and underappreciated. Burnout from the pandemic has led to a widespread shortage in EMS workers across the country. In Minnesota, 60% of EMTs have left the industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that EMTs are paid an average of $17 per hour, a surprisingly small sum for someone routinely tasked with providing life saving services. Studies have outlined the dangers of sleep deprived EMS workers, yet providers still work upwards of 24 hours with little to no sleep. These have all contributed to a worker shortage at Bangs. 

Bangs Ambulance and the Bangs family have been a staple in our community since 1945. The workers union does not want to change this. The providers at Bangs Ambulance are the most dedicated and hard-working individuals that I have ever had the honor to work with. They want to stay and work at Bangs. However, change is needed. Bangs Ambulance Workers United wants Bangs to continue operating in a more sustainable way. Unionization will help to increase staffing, secure workers a realistic living wage, and allow for transparency between staff and management. 

I encourage you to support Bangs Ambulance Workers United. The workers union wants to create a safer, more equitable environment for the employees at Bangs Ambulance. It is imperative that change happens, not only for the EMS providers at Bangs, but for our community.