State Attorney General Letitia James, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Councilman I. Daneek Miller of Queens, last week, came out in support of three unions representing FDNY EMS workers who charge they are being shortchanged in their struggle for pay parity.
“Equal pay for equal work is a basic human right,” James said on the steps of City Hall. “Our EMS and EMT workers dedicate their lives to supporting us, and it’s past time we give them the support they deserve.”
Local 2507 Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics & Fire Inspectors Union, Local 3621 Uniformed EMS Officers Union and the EMS Superior Officers Association have all claimed in a lawsuit that emergency technicians receive $8,000 less in base pay compared to other first responders — despite providing lifesaving care and putting themselves in precarious situations.
“Our members put their lives on the line every day to protect New Yorkers just like every other first responder,” said Oren Barzilay, president, Local 2507 Uniformed EMT’s, Paramedics, and Fire Inspectors. “They should not have to sue the City of New York just to receive the equal pay and benefits they have earned and that they deserve.”
They may not put out fires or stop criminals, but EMTs received 1.8 million calls for the FDNY and have been at the scene of dangerous fire emergencies for 80 percent of those requests, they have braved shootouts to help save victims, and have been assaulted by patients in the ongoing opioid crisis, according to elected officials.
The base pay for an FDNY EMT worker ranges from $34,000 to a little over $50,000, according to Glassdoor.com. Paramedics, who have similar training, but more technical skills, make between $41,000 to $73,000.
Firefighters in New York City have a base pay that ranges from $41,000 to $117,000, according to Glassdoor.com. Base pay for police officers ranges between $54,000 to $105,000.
The pay gap will only continue to widen by the thousands of dollars within the next four years, according to the city and state representatives.
“Discrimination affects all EMS personnel at all levels within the department,” said Joseph Pataky, president of the EMS Superior Officers Association. “While some are hurt more than others, diminishing the respect and value given to the bureau as a whole hurts all of our members, from entry level to deputy chiefs.”
EMTs are overwhelming women and people of color and they have allegedly been disciplined more for minor infractions like taking too long for bathroom breaks, elected officials charge.
“Paramedics and emergency medical technicians save lives every day,” said Johnson. “We need to treat them like the skilled and valuable professionals they are, which means paying them fairly. More than half of this workforce is women and people of color yet they earn thousands of dollars less than firefighters who are predominately white men. Both are FDNY members, both perform life-saving work.”
The 2017 lawsuit filed to the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission would force the disclosure of demographics in the different fields, pay practices and employment data, especially on disciplinary action to validate claims of discrimination.
Vincent Variale, the president of Local 3621 Uniformed EMS Officers believes it’s time for a change.
‘The biggest ‘difference’ between our members and other first responders is the color of their skin,” said Variale. “The City of New York needs to do better in 2019.”
The lack of pay equity has led to some of the 4,000 EMTs to leave the field altogether, according to Miller, the chair and co-chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor and the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus, respectively.
“Our city’s greatness is owed to the work and performance of its dedicated civil servants, but the municipal legacy system that has suppressed generations of Black and Brown New Yorkers aspiring to serve our city endures in 2019, and that is a tragedy,” said Miller. “Our first responders of color at EMS love their jobs, but don’t get a fair salary that keeps food on their families’ tables, and reluctantly leave for gainful employment as firefighters or sanitation workers.”