This is a letter to the editor written by Bangs Ambulance worker James Smith. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit letters to the editor, please send them to Matt Butler at mbutler@ithacavoice.com.

COVID has created many challenges for the Emergency Medical System. Some workers at Bangs Ambulance (Bangs Ambulance Workers United) want to form a Union. They stated in a pamphlet that they want to meet the needs of the community so they suggested people flood a Bangs Business phone number and tell them to “Do the Right Thing.” People call Bangs to get an ambulance, perhaps to transport a loved one to hospice or because they aren’t sure who to contact for an ambulance, how is flooding the phone lines serving the community?

Besides, they gave out the wrong phone number. If you want to address the needs of the community call the Mayor’s office. At the start of the COVID lockdowns the Ithaca Fire Department reduced its EMS response. The Bangs Family followed the CDC guidelines and kept responding when called. Bangs continued to take on the full weight of the community’s EMS needs, as it has done so for years and continues today.

The Bangs Family kept their ambulances responding, they know how to meet the needs for the community. Tim Bangs was always showing up with wipes or masks or gloves as he searched stores and the internet to find PPE to keep his staff and patients safe. The Ithaca Firefighters are wonderful, they give excellent care, do wonders with their limited staffing, have saved many lives through Gorge rescues, car accidents, overdoses, etc. But they need civilian leaders to support them and let them do what they do best. They are still not responding to all the 911 calls they went to pre-COVID. Tim Bangs supported his workers and met the needs of the community. I believe change is needed but believe the Bangs Family should be given the opportunity make those changes. I think they know how to do the “right thing.”

I have talked to members of the BAWU Committee. They want to exclude the supervisors, people that have been responding to 911 calls in this community for years and have helped to build Bangs Ambulance. These are people who have made a career commitment to Bangs and the community, and Bangs is their livelihood, but the BAWU is unwilling to give them a voice in the process.

The Bangs Family has been serving the community for years. Many persons on the BAWU will probably not be here for more than a few years and I question whether they can make the commitment to build a strong union. They want more financial transparency from Bangs yet half the committee members could not even tell me how much of the union dues would be going to CSEA. They have answered questions about benefits at another unionized Ambulance service as “like Bangs only better.” They have not done their homework and have not been transparent.

I hope everyone in the community will become more informed about the challenges of EMS. But let the workers of Bangs decide what is best for themselves, their families, their coworkers and their community. I am not opposed to Unions, but not this Union, not at this time.

Sincerely,

James K. Smith