LA City Minimum Wage Hike for Healthcare Workers to Come Before Voters

Healthcare workers sitting in a modern hospital, low angle

Photo: Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A measure that would raise the minimum wage of some healthcare workers in Los Angeles to $25 an hour will go before voters in 2024, with the City Council opting Friday to place a referendum petition on the ballot.

The ordinance raising the health care minimum wage was the result of an initiative petition drive presented to the council in June. The council adopted the ordinance rather than submit the issue to voters, and it was signed into law by Mayor Eric Garcetti.

But the "No on the Los Angeles Unequal Pay Measure" group subsequently collected enough signatures to force a referendum, suspending the ordinance and prompting a public vote on the measure.

The ordinance would raise affected workers' minimum wage, adjusting it annually to account for increases in the cost of living, and prohibit employers from funding the minimum wage increase by laying off workers or reducing benefits or hours.

The ordinance applies only to privately owned facilities, including hospitals, clinics, skilled nursing facilities or residential care facilities. It applies to workers including clinicians, nursing assistants, aides, technicians, maintenance workers, janitors, housekeepers, clerical workers and administrative workers.

The current minimum wage in Los Angeles is $16.04.

The initiative petition drive to create the ordinance was organized by the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West. According to the union, a recent survey of its members found concerns about short-staffing at healthcare facilities, and 20% said they had considered leaving the field in the past year.

"The past few years have taken an unimaginable toll on our healthcare workers -- often putting themselves at risk to care for the sick and their families," Garcetti said in a statement when he signed the ordinance. "It is time we put them first. Our healthcare heroes deserve fair compensation for their critical work, countless sacrifices and incredible service to our city and its people."

But the opposition group -- funded primarily by the California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems -- contends the municipal ordinance excludes workers at more than 90% of healthcare facilities in the city, calling the measure "inequitable and discriminatory."

The ordinance "requires pay increases for only some workers at some facilities, while completely excluding workers doing the exact same jobs at other providers," according to George W. Greene, president/CEO of the Hospital Association of Southern California, which is backing the effort.

"... We all agree that health care workers deserve support and recognition for the heroic work they do and hospitals go to great lengths to reward and appreciate workers. 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," he said.

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