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Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

Local 1549’s 911 Operators celebrate National Spirit Week

Photos courtesy of Local 1549
Local 1549 PCTs and SPCTs Emergency Operators at Brooklyn 911 Call Center during Spirit Week.

Tie-dye shirts, Adidas tracksuits, and crazy big ‘80s hair. It is not typical work attire at the MetroTech 911 call center, but for a week in April, the hard-working 911 Operators in Local 1549 celebrated National Public Safety Telecommunicators Spirit Week with fun ‘80s throwbacks.

“We planned a different theme for each day,” said Chrystle Bullock, a Police Communication Technician (PCT). “We wore shirts to honor our favorite teams. The tracksuits were a nod to Queens rappers LL Cool J and Run DMC, and our days growing up in New York City.”

The April 11-17 celebration brought a candy-colored “girls just want to have fun” mood to the NYPD 911 call centers in Brooklyn and the Bronx, two of the largest in the nation.

“The events were energizing. Everyone was excited to see their coworkers’ outfits and creativity. It helped boost morale and put everyone in good spirits,” Bullock said.

Across the nation, 911 operators celebrated each other and their work, answering and dispatching thousands of emergency calls each day and saving lives.

While 911 PCTs and Supervising PCTs are not officially recognized as First Responders alongside EMS, Firefighters, and Police, Local 1549 President Eddie Rodriguez said he and other local leaders are lobbying Albany and Washington to change that.

“PCTs and SPCTs help in emergencies great and small,” said Local 1549 Executive Vice President Alma Roper. “They are on the frontlines of everyday crises and monumental ones like the 9/11 terrorist attacks 20 years ago and this pandemic.”

Emergency operators in New York City answer about 20,000 calls or more in a 24-hour period, according to Roper. As essential workers, 911 PCTs and SPCTs have faced unprecedented challenges during the pandemic. Emergency call volume tripled as COVID-19 peaked in 2020, local leaders said. They responded to Black Lives Matter demonstrations, riots, gun violence, and more.

The starting salary for PCTs is about $39,000.

PCT Arislaydes Skinner, a shop steward and chapter chair, said, “We appreciate all the support the Police Department and the union give us, and we are extremely grateful.”

Some of the 911 operators’ family members and co-workers contracted COVID-19; some passed away.

“At 911, we put our personal lives and emotions aside to function for everyone else,” Skinner said. “We are here 24/7 for civilians and Police, Firefighters and EMS. We are here for all of New York.”