A Los Angeles ordinance that raised the minimum wage for health care workers in private facilities to $25 an hour is being challenged by others who say the increase is unfair as it excludes employees at more than 90% of hospitals. and city medical clinics.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the ordinance on Friday, July 8 following a 10-0 City Council vote to approve the pay increase after SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West collected the required number of signatures to include it. on the November ballot.
Since the measure was started by a petition drive, the council could adopt the initiative or present it to voters. The council opted to enact the ordinance, which applies to private sector health care employees working in hospitals, integrated health systems and dialysis clinics.
No Los Angeles Unequal Pay Measure, a coalition of health care workers, community clinics and hospitals that oppose the ordinance, have filed papers with the Los Angeles City Clerk to begin the process of qualifying a referendum to the November ballot.
If it qualifies, the referendum would allow voters to decide the fate of the measure.
“This ordinance is deeply flawed, unfair and discriminatory,” the group said. “It requires wage 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 says it accepts janitors, housekeepers, security guards and other non-medical workers.
Downey also approves a minimum wage of $25
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 in private facilities there.
Dave Regan, president of the SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, said the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened staffing shortages at Downey hospitals.
“Instead of investing in workforce development, hospitals have increased their profits and paid exorbitant salaries to executives who rarely 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 raise
If the Los Angeles ordinance is upheld, Mauricio Medina will receive a pay raise of nearly $9 an hour. He currently earns $16.25 an hour working as a Certified Nursing Assistant at Hospital of Southern California in Hollywood.
“This will allow me to focus more on school and become a registered nurse,” the 45-year-old Los Angeles resident said when the raise was signed into law last week. “I have put my education on hold for a long time because I have been working two or three jobs. This will give me the opportunity to move forward 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 in hospitals. But he is not interested in circumventing the will of the voters.
“We support more talk of 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 attendant at Kaiser Downey Hospital, said many health care employees feel they are not being fairly compensated for the work they do.
“I have seen people leave for better paying jobs, especially as the risks of working in a hospital have increased during the pandemic,” he said. “A fair minimum wage will help struggling families and keep healthcare workers from leaving their jobs.”