NEW YORK, NY — When EMT Yadira Arroyo was killed March 16 by a crazed man who stole her ambulance and ran her down, she didn’t qualify for line-of-duty death benefit.
Arroyo, 44, a veteran of 14 years, left behind the five boys she was supporting on her Emergency Medical Service salary: $48,000 base pay, $66,000 with overtime.
After her tragic death, Mayor de Blasio used his discretion to confer a death benefit on Arroyo’s family, equal to one year’s pay for her five boys.
The generous gesture reinvigorated a longstanding debate between City Hall and the Fire Department’s two EMS unions about line-of-duty death benefits, which are automatically granted to cops and firefighters.
After Arroyo’s death, EMS Locals 2507 and 3621 picked up the fight again — part of an ongoing battle to get City Hall to recognize their members as uniformed first responders, not civilian workers.
Last month, the two unions secured state legislation that now gives EMS members line-of-duty death benefits so workers no longer have to rely on mayoral discretion, said Oren Barzilay, president of Local 2507.
“This law is one more example of how we are recognized by the state as a uniformed service, yet the city refuses to acknowledge that,” Barzilay said.
But that step forward is still not enough for Locals 3621 and 2507, which last week filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court accusing the city and the Fire Department of ignoring or wrongfully denying multiple Freedom of Information Law requests.
The EMS unions — which represent city emergency medical technicians, paramedics, fire inspectors and EMS officers — want information on the pay, rank, gender, race and discipline history on employees across several different uniformed agencies.
They also want the same information — especially the disciplinary records — for the members of their own unions.
Barzilay said the unions’ quest for parity was not to disparage the FDNY and other uniformed agencies, but to convince the city that it’s time to “level the playing field” for fire inspectors and EMS.
The two labor groups argue that their members — 30% female and 56% black, Latino or Asian — are wrongly denied the same pay and benefits as other city workers in comparable titles, and are subjected to more frequent discipline.
“We are seeking to do a statistical analysis of the data to prove what we already know to be true: EMS is substantially underpaid and undervalued as compared to other uniformed counterparts,” said lawyer Yetta Kurland, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the unions.
The lawsuit cites the city, its Department of Administrative Services and the Fire Department for violating the Freedom of Information Law.
A city Law Department spokesman said the suit was under review.
“We will respond accordingly,” the spokesman said.