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Coalition calls $25 minimum wage for healthcare workers ‘inequitable’

An L.A. ordinance that boosted the minimum wage for healthcare workers at private facilities to $25 an hour is being challenged by others who say the hike is unfair, as it excludes employees at more than 90% of the city’s hospitals and medical clinics.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the ordinance Friday, July 8 following a 10-0 vote by the City Council to approve the wage increase after SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West collected the required amount of signatures to put it on the November ballot.

Since the measure was initiated by a petition drive, the council could either adopt the initiative or put it before voters. The council opted to enact the ordinance, which applies to private sector healthcare employees working in hospitals, integrated health systems and dialysis clinics.

No on the Los Angeles Unequal Pay Measure — a coalition of healthcare workers, community clinics and hospitals that oppose the ordinance — have filed paperwork with the L.A. City Clerk to begin the process of qualifying a referendum for the November ballot.

If qualified, the referendum would allow voters to decide the fate of the measure.

“This ordinance is deeply flawed, inequitable and discriminatory,” the group said. “It requires pay increases for only some workers at some facilities, while completely excluding workers doing the exact same jobs at other providers.”

The coalition — backed by funding from Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and its hospitals, Dignity Health and the California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems — also notes that it takes in janitors, housekeepers, security guards and other non-medical workers.

Downey also OKs $25 wage floor

The union has filed similar ballot initiatives in nine other Southern California cities, including Downey, whose City Council just voted to approve a $25 minimum wage for healthcare workers employed at private facilities there.

Dave Regan, president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, said the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened staffing shortages at Downey hospitals.

“Rather than investing in workforce development, hospitals have been padding their profits and paying outrageous salaries to executives who seldom interact with patients,” Regan said in a statement.

Other cities SEIU has targeted with ballot initiatives include Anaheim, Inglewood, Long Beach, Monterey Park, Culver City, Baldwin Park, Duarte and Lynwood.

A big pay hike

If the L.A. ordinance stands, Mauricio Medina will receive a pay increase of nearly $9 an hour. He currently earns $16.25 hourly working as a certified nursing assistant at Southern California Hospital at Hollywood.

“This will enable me to focus more on school and becoming a registered nurse,” the 45-year-old Los Angeles resident said when the increase was enacted last week. “I’ve put my education on hold for a long time because I’ve been working two or three jobs. This will give me the opportunity to move on and better provide for my family.”

George W. Greene, president and CEO of the Hospital Association of Southern California, said healthcare workers deserve support and recognition for the heroic work they do at hospitals. But he’s not keen on bypassing the will of voters.

“We support further conversations around fair and equitable compensation, but the deeply flawed nature of this ordinance means that — at a minimum — voters should have the final say,” Greene said.

Gabe Montoya, an emergency room assistant at Kaiser Downey Hospital, said many healthcare employees feel they’re not being fairly compensated for the work they do.

“I’ve seen people leave for better-paying jobs, especially as the risks of working in a hospital increased during the pandemic,” he said. “A fair minimum wage will help struggling families and stop healthcare workers from leaving their jobs.”

Source: Orange County Register

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