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Chicago firefighters, paramedics march for new contract during NASCAR Street Race

The Chicago Fire Fighters union said it wants to add 20 ambulances to its fleet of 80, hire more paramedics, plus annual pay raises and promotions.

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Members of the Chicago Fire Department took their fight for a "fair" contract downtown as NASCAR fans made their way to the Chicago Street Race.

Fans sat in the bleachers watching the practice sessions on day one of the race as firefighters and paramedics marched along Michigan Avenue. A number of first responders called out Mayor Brandon Johnson, saying they deserve better.

“It’s a slap in the face, that’s the message that they’re sending to us,” said Patrick Cleary, who is the president of the Chicago Fire Fighters Union Local 2. “They don’t appreciate us.”

Cleary said the union has been trying to get a new contract and has been meeting with the city at least once or twice a month for the last three years.

“Our medics are overworked," he said. "We don’t have enough paramedics and besides not having enough paramedics, we don’t have enough ambulances.”

The union wants to add 20 ambulances to its fleet of 80, hire more paramedics, plus annual pay raises and promotions.

“Last month alone - 800 days of overtime. That’s not 800 hours or 800 8-hour shifts, 800 days of 24-hour shifts had to be worked by 10% of our department,” explained Anthony Snyder, who is the director of Emergency Medical Services for Chicago Fire Fighters Union Local 2.

The union said members are doing their best on the heels of a dangerous and violent Fourth of July in the city.

“Just July 4th, we had 13 fires and 55 shootings in one day,” said Cleary. “Thirteen fires and 55 shootings, and we’re running short-handed and the medics all work 24, 48, some of them 72 hours in a row—that’s wrong.”

Firefighters and paramedics were supported by their brothers and sisters in blue.

“This is basically the first step. Our larger protest is going to be for the DNC with all eyes of the nation on this city and the Democratic Party,” said John Catanzara, who is the president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7. “We’re going to hold their feet to the fire about the pro-union moniker they’ve been championing for decades.”

The union hopes they can hammer out a deal soon as they continue to provide critical care to the public.

“Not only do we deserve better, the public deserves better," Cleary said. "They deserve better care.”

The union said the next meeting with the city is scheduled for Thursday, July 11. NBC Chicago reached out to the mayor’s office for comment but hadn't heard back as of Saturday afternoon.

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