Make EMS Pay Equitable

To the Editor: 

February 21, 2019

Labor Commissioner Bob Linn (Feb. 15 article) makes the argument that EMS salaries are far lower than FDNY and NYPD pay by comparing EMTs and Medics working for the city to private providers.

Well, there aren’t any private fire departments or private police departments providing those services to the citizens of New York. Case closed.

The truth is that EMS salaries are an accident of history and lack of political will to make things right. From the ranks of hospital drivers and orderlies, EMS salaries originated in the pay scales granted to members of DC 37 Local 420. Of course, mainly minority workers, on the lowest rung of the healthcare totem pole.

When EMS began to be recognized as a real profession, no one went to bat for these new bold fighters who brought medicine to the streets, implementing an EMT curriculum developed by the Federal DOT after studying the huge numbers of those killed and injured in car crashes in the highway system, and what could be done to use the “golden hour” to save lives.

The lessons of Vietnam—how combat medics made a difference in the field—were also part of the genesis of EMS. But no one fought for EMS parity, except the workers themselves.

Who could possibly deny these men and women a decent and comparable wage? What possible argument could be made in good conscience that the EMT or Medic who shows up at your house or your crisis in the street—with all of the multitude of interpersonal and medical skills that requires—doesn’t deserve the same pay as a Firefighter or Police Officer? But it’s the same way today.

Unless the EMS unions can employ brinksmanship when it counts, and gain powerful political allies, this accident of history will continue.