UCLA Labor Center

Emergency Medical Services in California: Wages, Working Conditions, and Industry Profile

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2017 / Ken Jacobs, Nereida Heller, Saba Waheed, and Sam Appel

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A new report, Emergency Medical Services in California: Wages, Working Conditions, and Industry Profile examines wages and working conditions for California’s EMTs and paramedics. According to the study, wages in the industry are low, employees work long hours often without rest and meal breaks, and injury rates are high, according to a joint study by the UCLA Labor Center and UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education.

Among other findings, the study finds:

  • $16.59 was the median hourly wage for private-sector EMTs and paramedics in California in 2014
  • One third of California EMTs were low-wage workers, defined as earning less than $13.63 an hour (which is 2/3 of the state median wage)
  • Private-sector EMTs and paramedics earned 39 percent less than their public sector counterparts. Even when controlling for age, gender, geography, education, and race and ethnicity, public sector wages were still much higher than private-sector wages.
  • One quarter of private-sector EMS workers in California were in households with incomes below 200 % of the Federal Poverty Line, compared to 14 % of those in the public sector.
  • The common practice of ‘posting’ (where EMT units await calls while parked rather than at a comfort station) increases the likelihood of back pain and makes it difficult to take breaks. Temperature regulation is difficult in summer and winter, and posting locations are often unsafe.

The report calls to attention two policy levers that may be activated to improve EMS workforce conditions: state-level legislation and local contracting practices. The study considered the working conditions addressed in the Emergency Medical Services Workers’ (EMS) Bill of Rights, or Assembly Bill 263, recently proposed by Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona/Chino). Since EMS is both a critical healthcare and employment sector, improving working conditions is important, and the projected growth of California’s elderly will translate to thousands of new, middle-class EMT and paramedic jobs in the coming decade.

Related Links

EMS World- Study: Calif. EMS Providers Struggle with Low Pay, Poor Working Conditons

East County Today- Assemblymember Rodriguez Introduces EMS Workers Bill of Rights

Facebook- Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez introduces the EMS Workers Bill of Rights

UC Berkeley News- Wages low, injuries high for emergency medical workers, study says

Medical Xpress- Wages low, injuries high for emergency medical workers, study says

ems1.com- Why it’s time for an EMS Workers Bill of Rights

ems1.com- Calif. official introduces EMS Workers Bill or Rights

Society for Human Resource Management-‘Bill of Rights’ Proposed to Improve California EMS Field