Tragedy Fuels Pay Disparity in New York City

Apr 28, 2017

44-year old FDNY EMT Yadira Arroyo died last month while trying to stop a robbery
Credit DC 37 Local 2507

Last month's violent line of duty death of 44-year old FDNY EMT Yadira Arroyo has thrown a spotlight on the vast pay disparity between what members of the FDNY’s Emergency Medical Service are paid versus every other uniform agency including the Department of Sanitation.

Back on the evening of March 16 EMT Yadira Arroyo and her partner Monique Williams, were on their way to a pregnant mom in distress call in the Soundview section of the Bronx. For Ms. Arroyo, a 14 year veteran and mother of five, it was just another tour on a job she loved. Yet in just seconds her world was forever upended when she tried to stop a street robbery in progress and the suspect hi-jacked her rig and ran her over even as she fought him. The dispatcher radio crackled with the code no first responder wants to hear 10-13 officer down.


The suspect 25 year old Jose Gonzales did not get far and crashed the rig. He was immediately apprehended by an MTA policeman and some civilian passerbys. According to prosecutors he had a long rap sheet, had serious psychological issues and was living in a nearby supportive homeless shelter. At Arroyo’s funeral Mayor de Blasio hailed the 44 year EMT as a hero. 

"When we faced danger she was there. Now she has been taken from us. We have to say goodbye to EMT Adira Arroyo who for fourteen years courageously served the people of this city and who we now know is a her we will remember forever.”

In marking her death the city spared no expense with a phalanx of police motorcycles leading her funeral procession as thousands of fellow first responders and civilians looked on. A NYPD helicopter made a flyover.

Don Faeth is an active duty FDNY EMT and an official with DC 37’s Local 2507 which represents EMTS.

HENNELLY: "Is it right that there is a $20,000 difference between someone who is a veteran like the EMS officer who passed and a sanitation officers? Give me a sense of the contrast?” FAETH: It is glaring. We actually stand shoulder to shoulder at every emergency in the city with police officers and firefighters but the treatment is vastly different in regards to compensation and to even respect. People don’t feel good about their job. HENNELLY: Faeth says the low pay has consequences. FAETH(11:07)So as long as you have that huge disparity between is and the other emergency services we are going to continue to have a revolving door where people don’t want to stay here. They bounce in and apply of the other civil serve tests and they get the job that they know they can feed their family with.” HENNELLY: So what is the advantage of having continuity and stability in the workforce? FEATH: The New England Journal of Medicine was very clear in one of their articles that the experience of the caregiver has a direct correlation to the outcome of your patient. i think the deportment’s own statistics show that in 2014 there were more pre-hospital cardia arrest saves than their were in 2016."

Close to 40 percent of the EMS service is made up of women and over half are people of color. New York City Council member Laurie Cumbo is pushing legislation to end gender pay disparity citywide.

"There are what’s known as professions that are traditionally male dominated and professions that are traditionally women dominated but the pay scale in this are very different so you have to not only look at where the exact titles line up but we also have to look at the kind of work that is being done. While it may be called something different it still is very equal and valid work that should get equal pay as well."

Judith Arroyo is the president of DC 37’s Local 436 which represents the City’s public health nurses. She says the EMS/EMT pay disparity is just one example of skewed budget priorities across the county.

"And that’s the whole thing about the budget. Whether it is the Governor, the President or the Mayor the budget indicates the priority of that administration. And if your budget indicates that you would rather spend money for laying down $1,000 square inch carpet somewhere versus going enough money for child care, giving enough money for paying the public nurses in the school system, paying enough money for EMS, EMT for the work that they do."

Local 2507 union is considering retaining a lawyer to bring a Federal Equal Opportunity law-suit against the City of New York for the years of pay disparity.

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