Queens councilman leads efforts for equal pay for FDNY EMS first responders

Courtesy of Miller's office

Seeking equal pay for EMS first responders, Councilman I. Daneek Miller and Attorney General Letitia James joined advocates and three local unions representing FDNY EMS workers to rally Wednesday on the steps of City Hall.

Unlike firefighters and fire officers, some 4,000 FDNY EMS Bureau members are predominantly comprised of people of color and consist of the highest percentage of women in any uniformed services and first responders and they receive $8,000 less in starting salary than other first responders: a gap that becomes wider by tens of thousands of dollars after five years of service.

“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,” Miller said. “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. The Council’s Committee on Civil Service and Labor has led the way on the principle of pay equity on behalf of our city, and will continue to push this administration to be consistent with its progressive values these brave women and men equal pay for equal work.”

The de Blasio administration has denied the allegation, and claimed the underpayment is simply due to their work being “different” from that of firefighters, despite the fact that FDNY EMS personnel responded to 80 percent of the 1.8 million calls received by the NYPD last year, provide emergency medical care in the midst of life-threatening situations, and are assaulted by patients. Officials say that more than 1,000 members actually left EMS to become firefighters over a 12-month period and 80 percent of new EMS hires leave within four years, taking with them their extensive medical expertise and training.

“Equal pay for equal work is a basic human right,” James said. “Our EMS and EMT workers dedicate their lives to supporting us, and it’s past time that we give them the support they deserve. I’m proud to stand with them in solidarity in their fight for fairness.”

During the rally Miller announced that he is introducing new legislation that would require the FDNY to report on EMS resignations, and particularly count the members that leave the division to become FDNY firefighters or gain employment with another municipal agency. Miller is also sponsoring a resolution calling on the city to provide salary parity for FDNY EMS personnel as first responders.

“It’s time to end this appalling pay disparity. EMTs shoulder the greatest burdens of 911 calls. They handled 1.3 million of the 1.8 million calls, or 71 percent of all emergency calls, in 2018,” Councilman Francisco Moya said. “They accomplished that with less than half the number of EMTs that the FDNY has firefighters, 4,000 medical technicians to 11,000 firefighters. They may not look the same, FDNY is majority white and male while EMS is predominantly made up of women and minorities, but they’re alike in one critical way: They are heroes. Countless New Yorkers are alive today because of the life-saving decisions EMTs made when they arrived on the scene. Every day we ask EMTs to save lives while barely paying them enough to live themselves.”

Councilman Robert Holden spoke of his district containing one of the best EMS training programs in the city at Grover Cleveland High School in Ridgewood.

“Our men and women in EMS rush to the scenes of accidents, disasters, crimes and other types of disturbing events, and are integral in preserving the safety of our city,” Holden said. “We must do right by our EMS so they can continue to do the work that they do for nearly 9 million New Yorkers and millions more who visit our city each year.”

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