Mayor Grants Special Benefit
Murdered EMT’s Family To Get Year’s Salary
The Chief Leader
By Bob Hennelly
April 10, 2017
The murder of an Emergency Medical Technician after she attempted to stop a street robbery in The Bronx last month has prompted a groundswell of support from City Hall to Albany to end the longstanding wage-and-benefit disparity between the Emergency Medical Service and fellow first-responders at the Police and Fire Departments.
EMT Yadira Arroyo, 44, left behind five sons aged 7 to 24. She had 14 years on the job.
Line-of-Duty Pay Granted
THE CHIEF-LEADER has confirmed that Mayor de Blasio has decided to confer the line-of-duty death benefit, which is equal to one year’s pay, to Ms. Arroyo’s family. Under existing law, such a payout is automatically granted only to cops and firefighters. “We are very grateful for the Mayor giving this benefit to the Arroyo family, but it should not be discretionary,” said Israel Miranda, president of District Council 37’s Local 3621. “It should be for every member going forward. We are not talking about a lot of money.”
Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, chair of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice Services, said in an interview that parity for EMS officers with other first-responders was long overdue. “I believe they are underpaid and not respected as a uniformed agency, as they need to be,” Ms. Crowley said. “If you just look after five years of what a uniformed Sanitation Officer makes, it is nearly $70,000. Here, this women who was killed in the line of duty, after working 15 years and a ton of overtime, and she did not make what a Sanitation Officer makes after five years on the job.”
Members of the FDNY’s EMS are denied the uniformed-services pay and benefit level enjoyed by firefightrs and uniformed workers in the Police, Sanitation and Correction Departments, despite Council legislation passed during the Bloomberg administration granting them uniformed status.
In a phone interview, Mr. Miranda confirmed that Assemblyman Peter Abbate and State Sen. Martin Golden were drafting legislation to include the city’s EMS service in the ranks of first-responders, whose families are entitled to the line-of-duty death benefit.
According to union officials, more than 40 percent of EMS workers are women, and more than 50 percent are people of color. “Our people are working second and third jobs every bit of every time and still can’t afford to live in the city they serve,” said Mr. Miranda.
Created Turnover Problem
Both Mr. Miranda and Vincent Variale, president of DC 37’s Local 3621, which covers EMS Officers, maintain that the low salaries paid to the medical-services division have caused excessive turnover and prompted their members to look to the fire side of the FDNY for career advancement.
Mr. Miranda said that over the years, EMS workers have had some success getting elected leaders to move towards equity for his members, including the passage of the Council legislation. “But Mayor Bloomberg challenged it in court, and even though we prevailed there, our compensation continues to lag seriously behind the other services,” he said.
“People may not realize it but we are frequently the victims of assault, because some of the people we are trying to help are very hostile,” said Mr. Variale. “We deal with everything, so we are social workers and emergency workers, yet to this day the Mayor has not recognized us as a uniformed emergency service.”
In a City Hall interview last week, Council Member Laurie Cumbo added her voice to a growing chorus of elected officials calling for EMS parity. She had introduced Equal Employment Opportunity legislation requiring the collection and public release of gender-wage data for all city agencies, as well as contractors doing work for the city. She believes that the current “second-class” status in pay and benefits for the EMS is rooted in longstanding gender bias.
“We can look at certain professions that are systemically underpaid, particularly in child care, senior care and in so many other agencies as well,” Ms. Cumbo said. “They are what’s known as professions that are traditionally male-dominated and professions that are traditionally women-dominated. But the pay scale in those is very different. We have to not only look at where the exact titles line up, but we also have to look at the type of work that is being done. While it may be called something different, it is still very valid and equal work.”
Last week Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark announced that Ms. Arroyo’s alleged attacker, Jose Gonzalez, 25, had been indicted on three counts of first-degree murder, four counts of second-degree murder, and first-degree manslaughter, among other charges. If convicted on the top charge, he faces up to life in prison.
According to prosecutors, the suspect had been joy-riding on the back of Ms. Arroyo’s rig and then jumped off and attempted to steal a backpack from a pedestrian. Ms. Arroyo and her partner, Monique Williams, tried to intervene.
Mr. Gonzalez forced his way into the ambulance after a struggle with Ms. Arroyo and put the vehicle in reverse and then quickly accelerated forward, running her over and killing her. Her body was dragged 15 feet until the ambulance jumped a curb and hit a parked car. An MTA Police Officer, Daniel McCabe, who was passing by, tackled Mr. Gonzalez with the help of some civilians.
Toxicology tests on the suspect were positive for PCP and marijuana.
Judge’s Odd Choice
Before this incident, Mr. Gonzalez, 25, was a habitual criminal who was arrested 31 times, but he was released by Bronx Criminal Court Judge David Kirschner after he robbed someone, then resisted arrest and kicked out the window of a police van. The New York Times reported he lived in a “supportive” homeless shelter. He is reportedly schizophrenic and dangerous anytime he goes off his medication.
“The defendant horrifically ended the life of someone who exemplified bravery, compassion and caring. Yadira Arroyo died a hero on the streets of The Bronx,” said Ms. Clark in a statement after the indictment.
He pled not guilty as more than 100 of Ms. Arroyo’s colleagues looked on. He is due back in court on Aug. 25.