This past week two unions that represent New York City EMS workers and fire inspectors filed a lawsuit against the city. The suit accuses the city of refusing to release documents related to the race, gender, rank, and disciplinary history of both FDNY and other city workers. The union is seeking this information in an effort to illustrate EMS workers are “substantially underpaid and undervalued as compared to other uniformed counterparts.”
The suit is the latest effort by city EMTs to receive pay parity with other “uniformed” city workers. The city merged fire and EMS functions in 1996 but continue to treat EMS workers as civilian employees. This distinction has long been a topic of debate between police, fire, and EMS workers in the city. The union points out that FDNY EMTs base pay tops out around $61,000 per year after 5-years of service, while firefighters base pay can reach $110,000 over the same time period.
The disparity between uniformed and civilian work forces was further illustrated in March of 2017 following the tragic death of FDNY EMT Yadira Arroyo. Arroyo was struck and killed by a “crazed man who stole her ambulance.” Arroyo was ineligible for the “line-of-duty” death benefits other uniformed city workers would have received. The mayor stepped up and provided line-of-duty benefits to Arroyo’s family, however union officials do not believe these benefits should be left to the discretion of future mayors.
Almost one in three civilian members of the EMS and fire inspection unions are female and 56% of union members are African American, Latino, or Asian. The union believes the release of statistical data related to other uniformed city employees will illustrate significant disparities in how the city treats these civilian workers when compared to “predominantly male” uniformed workers in other city departments.