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 – Faye Smyth is the president of the 202-person-strong Uniformed Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association (UFADBA) — the first woman to ever hold the post. The organization has two call centers – one in the Bronx, one in Brooklyn — and they are always open.
“We never close,” says Smyth.
Smyth has been a public servant her entire career. She began at the NYPD in 1989, eventually moving over to the FDNY in 1997. She has received commendations from both the Police and Fire departments for her work as an emergency dispatcher. One that stands out above all others is her efforts during September 11, 2001.
Smyth has moved up through the ranks of the Uniformed Fire Alarm Dispatchers Benevolent Association and is now in her 3rd term as president.
Through Smyth’s leadership, UFADBA won the very tough fight to reverse the Bloomberg catastrophe called Universal Call Taker. Smyth, along with her union board, were able to gain their own uniform bargaining certificate for labor negotiations. As president, she made sure that her members acquired their Class A dress uniforms. UFADBA members were granted their own Education Day, as well as an annual Recognition Day to honor members who have performed extraordinarily during the previous year. UFADBA members who have (unfortunately) passed away are afforded the assistance of the Ceremonial unit. Smyth her members also acquired membership in the International Association of Firefighters. Their local is #4959. Membership had to be sponsored by both local firefighter and fire officer’s unions.
With the advent of the pandemic, Smyth says, “We had members out sick, in quarantine. A lot of worry about what you could eventually bring home — basically, what all emergency workers are going through. They still have to report for work. There is mandatory overtime. Sometimes they work for 18 hours then come in for another shift. It’s a learning curve for the country and for us. You just try to do the best you can. You have a mask, [when you speak to people on the phone] they can’t always understand you. People are having the worst day of their lives, they can’t always understand what you are telling them. It’s definitely been an adjustment.”
There is also increased pressure due to the threat of layoffs — and that becomes a safety issue, according to Smyth.
“We’re short-handed. Wait times go up. Peoples’ lives are in jeopardy. If a position is not being utilized that’s longer that people have to wait for help. The pressure comes from the top and trickles down.”
And there’re even more pressures on members.
Says Smyth, “Workers have to home-school their kids. But there’s overtime because we’re short-handed — who will watch your kids?”