Unlike firefighters and fire officers, FDNY EMS Bureau members are predominantly comprised of people of color and consists of the highest percentage of women of any uniformed services and first responders.
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.
“The biggest ‘difference’ between our members and other first responders is the color of their skin,” said Vincent Variale, president of Local 3621 Uniformed EMS Officers. “The ‘it’s different’ argument has been used for decades to justify discriminatory treatment in this country.”
Earlier this month, Local 2507 Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics & Fire Inspectors Union, Local 3621 Uniformed EMS Officers Union, and the EMS Superior Officers Association filed suit in the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging the city has engaged in discriminatory pay practices.
The action follows a 2017 suit that the unions filed against the city to force the disclosure of pay and employment data they are confident would validate its claim of discrimination.
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 FDNY EMS personnel responded to 80 percent of the 1.8 million calls received by FDNY last year.
This past June, the City Council’s Committee on Civil Service and Labor conducted an oversight hearing that examined pay equity concerns at FDNY EMS.
It's believed that more than 1,000 members left EMS to become firefighters over a twelve-month period. Eighty percent of new EMS hires leave within four years, taking with them their extensive medical expertise and training.
Some members of FDNY EMS who served for over a decade left their jobs to join the Department of Sanitation, and others have been lost to the NYPD, Department of Corrections, and the MTA.
Councilman I. Daneek Miller of Queens, who chairs the committee, announced that he is introducing legislation that would require FDNY to report on EMS resignations, and particularly members that voluntarily leave the division to become FDNY firefighters or gain employment with another municipal agency.
Additionally, Councilman Miller is sponsoring a resolution calling on the City to provide salary parity for FDNY EMS personnel as first responders.
“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,” said Miller.
During her tenure as public advocate, State Attorney General Letitia James published multiple studies on race and gender-based pay inequity in the city workforce, and filed an amicus brief in support of the FDNY EMS unions.
“Equal pay for equal work is a basic human right,” said James. “Our EMS and EMT workers dedicate their lives to supporting us, and it’s past time we give them the support they deserve.”