The Los Angeles City Council gave a final vote on an ordinance Wednesday to increase the minimum wage for workers at private hospitals to $25 an hour throughout the city.
The increase, which will affect all workers in the hospital and not just healthcare workers, has been under discussion since the early days of the pandemic. Due to the increased risk of COVID-19, many leaving positions during the great resignation, as well as the increased difficulty of hiring and retaining employees due to many feeling washed out and under appreciated during the pandemic, the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers (SEIU-UHW) union began collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to increase the minimum wage for workers at private hospitals to $25 an hour last year.
The goal was to bring the minimum wage increase to a vote this November. However, once enough signatures were collected and confirmed, the L.A. City Council had the choice to either send it to voters in November or approve the measure themselves. They opted for the latter, leading up to a vote last week. However, the Council did not unanimously pass it. Councilmen Paul Krekorian and Joe Buscaino voted no, leading to a 10-2 vote that triggered a second vote this week due to City Council rules.
With a few Council members pulling out of the vote this week either in protest or because of a conflict of interest due to being on a hospital board, it passed 10-0 on Wednesday, sending the ordinance to Mayor Eric Garcetti to sign. Supporters cheered the vote, saying that a vote for the raise was needed due to the increased risk of employees and the bump acting as sort of a ‘hazard pay’, not having more set wage increases like public hospitals, workers needing an incentive to stay due to staffing shortages, and wanting to keep up healthcare levels throughout the city.
“We applaud the Los Angeles City Council for leading the way toward protecting public health and addressing a staffing shortage that threatens Angelenos’ care,” said SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West president Dave Regan on Wednesday, the head of a union that pushed for the ordinance to pass. “By ensuring healthcare workers earn a fair wage that reflects the vital work they do, Los Angeles can retain and attract the workers needed to ensure the quality of healthcare doesn’t decline in the city.”
Last week, the SEIU-UHW released a similar statement for the ordinance, saying that “Burned out and traumatized from the pandemic, many feel disrespected and undervalued and have left the profession, and more are considering leaving soon. Raising the minimum wage helps acknowledge their vital, life-saving work and retain workers for Los Angeles’ future healthcare needs.”
Many in LA still oppose ordinance
However, many, such as hospital groups and administrators, decried the passing of the measure. They noted that many jobs in hospitals have considerably less risk and that hospitals will now have to choose between hiring more people, or hiring less with the increased wage. Others noted that the hikes were unfair, as they wouldn’t cover public hospitals, with private hospitals possibly poaching employees due to the higher wages. Also pointed out was a lack of a public vote on the matter, with many being upset at the LA City Council for not allowing city voters to vote on the issue as had been originally intended.
“This wasn’t a wage increase, it was dooming the healthcare system,” said wage advocate Carmine Spencer to the Globe on Thursday. “Most people are usually for higher wages, but raising them this high means that hospitals are in for a rough choice between having more people or less with an increased wage. It’s not going to lead to better care. Care levels are going to worsen with few people on board. Especially in public hospitals, where many might be poached by the better paying private hospital.”
“And that’s not even getting into the fact that voters had absolutely no say in this. They were supposed to vote on it in November, but the City Council thought it was better that they take care of it. Shameful on their part. Legal, but shameful.”
The ordinance is expected to be signed into law by Mayor Garcetti soon, with the ordinance coming into effect by the end of the year.
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