$25 minimum wage initiatives would exclude 65% of healthcare workers – San Bernardino Sun

Several Southern California cities have approved, or are considering, a $25-an-hour minimum wage for healthcare workers at private facilities, but a new report says 65% of healthcare employees across those communities would be excluded.

The study from Berkeley Research Group predicts the move would fuel higher salaries for others earning more than minimum wage as well, increasing healthcare costs by hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

The Berkeley analysis was spurred by a series of ballot initiatives filed recently by SEIU-UHW across 10 Southland communities. The pay hikes target private sector healthcare employees who work in hospitals, integrated health systems and dialysis clinics.

The report was commissioned by the California Hospitals Committee on Issues, an initiative committee that takes positions on ballot initiatives of interest to the hospital community.

Since the wage-increase measures were initiated by a petition drive, the cities can either adopt them as an ordinance or put them before voters in November.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti approved the ordinance for L.A. on July 8, but it was quickly challenged by “No on the Los Angeles Unequal Pay Measure.” The coalition of healthcare workers, community clinics and hospitals say the wage increase is unfair because it fails to include employees at public healthcare facilities.

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

Garcetti defended his decision.

“It is time we put them first,” the mayor said when he signed the ordinance into law. “Our healthcare heroes deserve fair compensation for their critical work, countless sacrifices and incredible service to our city and its people.”

Yecenia Cardenas-Gomez, a certified nursing attendant in Los Angeles, said a pay increase has been sorely needed.

“Many caregivers are considering leaving the field for other work as the risks of working in a hospital have increased, and they have struggled to meet their basic needs,” she said. “Our city is facing a healthcare worker shortage.”

The Downey City Council also voted to approve a $25 minimum wage ordinance for healthcare workers employed at private facilities.

The Berkeley report offers a breakout of the 10 cities targeted by SEIU-UHW and the percentage of healthcare workers who would be excluded from the pay increase if such pay mandates were approved by voters: 

  • Anaheim – 77%
  • Baldwin Park – 85%
  • Culver City – 82%
  • Downey – 79%
  • Duarte – 51%
  • Inglewood – 63%
  • Long Beach – 65%
  • Los Angeles – 65%
  • Lynwood – 57%
  • Monterey Park – 54%

Becky Warren, a spokeswoman for NoUnequalPay.com, said Inglewood and Duarte have sent the measure to the November ballot, while Monterey Park and Long Beach are debating whether to pass an ordinance or leave it to voters.

SEIU-UHW failed to collect enough valid signatures to put the measure on the ballot for Baldwin Park, Lynwood and Culver City, Warren said, adding that signatures were never submitted for Anaheim.

Those developments occurred after the Berkeley report was compiled.

The study predicts a minimum wage increase would create a ripple effect, fueling additional pay hikes for other healthcare workers already earning $25 an hour or more. Those currently making $25 to $29.99 an hour would see an increase of 19%, the study said, while others earning $30 and $34.99 an hour would get a 9.5% raise.

The report says total healthcare salaries in Los Angeles will jump from $4.3 billion to nearly $4.6 billion — a 6.7% increase during the first year. Other cities would also see significant total payroll increases, including Inglewood (9.2%), Duarte (4.5%), Monterey Park (9.3%) and Long Beach (8%).

George W. Greene, president and CEO of the Hospital Association of Southern California, said the Berkeley report demonstrates the “built-in inequity” of the proposed wage hikes.

“The measures are deeply flawed, unfair and discriminatory, creating arbitrary and harmful public policy,” Greene said in a statement. “We believe there are better ways to recognize the heroic work of healthcare workers.

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