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EMT staff move a patient into an ambulance in front of Mt. Sinai Morningside Hospital on May 18, 2020 in New York City. (Photo: John Lamparski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

'The Actual Scandalous Headline Is Medics Need Two Jobs to Survive': AOC Defends Paramedic Outed by NY Post

"It's not like she does anything shameful for money, like writing for the New York Post."

Julia Conley

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Sunday night was among those who came to the defense of a New York City paramedic who the New York Post outed and attempted to shame in a recent article about her decision to earn extra money via nude modeling. 

The progressive New York congresswoman tweeted that instead of publishing a salacious article suggesting the woman isn't adhering to "standards of personal ethics" while naming both her and her employer—reportedly against her wishes—the newspaper should have focused on "the actual scandalous headline...'Medics in the United States need two jobs to survive.'"

Written by Dean Balsamini and Susan Edelman, the Post's article detailed how Lauren Kwei—who has since spoken out publicly using her name—works for a private ambulance company that serves New York hospitals in the city's 911 system. 

She graduated from an emergency medical technician program in 2018 and soon began earning $15 per hour in a city where a living wage is about $18 per hour, according to researchers at MIT. 

Kwei completed more training to become a paramedic last year, at a school that charges $13,200 in tuition. She now earns $25 per hour, she told the Post, and is helping to support her family following her father's recent cardiac arrest.

To avoid working more than 40 hours per week at a job with a high burnout rate, Kwei began an account, posting nude photos and videos on the website to earn enough money to support herself.

At GoFundMe—where a supporter quickly began a fundraiser for Kwei after the article was published, for fear that she would lose her job in healthcare—Kwei wrote on Sunday that Balsamini went against her wishes by refusing to allow her to remain anonymous in the article.  

"I told him my safety and job were going to be at risk if he posted this article," Kwei wrote. "He truly did not care. He went on to call my employer and my mother."

In the U.S., paramedics' average yearly salaries range from about $33,000 to $46,000, according to Zip Recruiter. In Canada, paramedics earn an average of about $Can73,000, or $57,000, per year.

Dr. Brooke Magnanti, a research scientist who has worked as a sex worker in the past, tweeted that side gigs among frontline workers—who Americans and the healthcare system are relying on heavily amid the coronavirus pandemic—are common.

Instead of delving into the story of an essential profession in which workers are underpaid, Balsamini and Edelman included a quote from another paramedic—granting them the anonymity that Kwei was denied—who said, "Other EMTs and paramedics make more money by pulling extra shifts, instead of pulling off their clothes."

"It's not like she does anything shameful for money, like writing for the New York Post," tweeted Mikey Franklin, a campaign adviser for the grassroots advocacy network New Mode and one of many people who defended Kwei's right to earn money in whatever way she chooses.

As of this writing, the GoFundMe for Kwei had earned more than $24,000 to help her and her family in case she loses her job as a result of the Post's article.

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