Late FDNY EMT Yadira Arroyo’s uncle, union leaders call for fair pay for first responders


New York Daily News (View article on the Daily News website)
January 28, 2020

The uncle of slain FDNY Emergency Medical Technician Yadira Arroyo testified Tuesday that she was barely able to make ends meet on her salary, speaking at a City Council hearing on low pay for the city’s emergency medical services personnel.

“She loved her job but she, like her colleagues, was not given the pay, the resources or the support she deserved,” said the uncle, A.J. Hernandez, noting she often did double shifts and was working one when a career criminal stole her ambulance and mowed her down in March 2017.

“She died a hero. This is what heroes do,” Hernandez continued. “Now my question is: Is the loss of my niece’s life different from the loss of a firefighter’s life? My niece saved lives. How is that different from what a firefighter does?”

The question cut to the heart of the matter debated Tuesday: the city’s EMS members are paid at significantly lower rates than other first responders. The salary of an FDNY EMT starts around $35,000 and rises to $50,000 over five years. By comparison, an entry-level firefighter gets about $45,000, which more than doubles over five years.

“The city undermines its EMS workforce, its own reputation and the public it is charged to protect daily by not addressing pay inequalities in our department,” said Michael Greco, vice president of the EMS union, Local 2507.

He said the low pay is contributing to high attrition — adding that the rate is underreported by the city.

“For far too long, numbers have been used against EMS first responders to improperly report attrition rates,” Greco said.

“Every four years, we lose 25% of our members to [FDNY] through a botched process,” he continued. “The [FDNY] then adds insult to injury by referring to this as a ‘promotion.’ ”

FDNY Chief of EMS Lillian Bonsignore acknowledged attrition issues — saying a “key factor in departing members is pay” — but wouldn’t make any promises on pay parity.

Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) asked her, “Do you feel [EMS staff] should have the same salary as firefighters?”

“First responders should be paid appropriately for what they do,” Bonsignore replied, sticking to the line through several rounds of back-and-forth.

Rodriguez and other pols voiced support for a nonbinding Council resolution calling for pay parity between city EMTs and paramedics and other first responders. They also argued for a bill that would require the FDNY to give annual reports on resignations.

Hernandez hoped his testimony hadn’t fallen on deaf ears, saying that EMS members “are leaving with no [other] choice, and the ones that stay are struggling.”

He added that Mayor de Blasio had let him and his family down after Arroyo’s death, saying Hizzoner refused to help get her posthumously promoted but promised at her funeral that unnamed connections with “unimaginable wealth” would make sure her family was taken care of.

“That never materialized,” Hernandez said, calling de Blasio’s remarks “all fluff and no substance.”

De Blasio’s office did not comment on the mayor’s conversation with Hernandez. “Yadira Arroyo’s death was a tragedy our entire city felt. We were proud to have been able to help her family in their time of need in the name of their mother’s service and bravery,” spokeswoman Laura Feyer said in a statement.