California Senate passes $25 minimum wage for healthcare workers

On Wednesday, a $25 minimum wage bill for healthcare workers was sanctioned in the California Senate. The partisan bill did not get a single Republican vote in its 21-11 approval. Presented by Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), and advocated by the Service Employees International Union, the bill suggests to increase the state’s minimum wage for healthcare workers.

California healthcare
A $25 minimum wage bill for healthcare workers was sanctioned in the California Senate. Source: Techstory

Among many others can all expect a wage increase, if the bill becomes law are— healthcare workers at general acute care hospitals, acute psychiatric hospitals, medical offices and clinics, behavioral health centers, dialysis clinics and residential care centers as well as as certified nursing assistants, patient aides, technicians, and food service workers, All paid work performed on the premises of any covered health care facility, regardless of the identity of the employer qualifies for the increase.

The suggested wage hike would be incremental at first. With effect from June 1, 2024 the minimum wage would increase to $21 per hour for one year, then increase to $25 per hour if the bill passes in the assembly.

A report by UC Berkeley’s Labor Center forecasts an rise in operational costs at health facilities by 3 per cent as a result of a $25 minimum wage which would increase pay by almost $5.74 for each eligible healthcare worker.

SB 525 has massive union support. SEIU represents 2 million members in healthcare, the public sector and property services in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. In the previous week, members marched on the state Capitol, then descended on to the headquarters of the California Hospital Association and California Primary Care Association to ask for $25 minimum wage for healthcare workers.

Rony Berdugo, Vice President, State Advocacy for the hospital association said in a letter to the Senate appropriations committee in April, “This bill imposes a top-down wage increase for all healthcare workers that does not account for the current economics of health care or the unique circumstances of health care providers in local communities in a state as large and diverse as California. SB 525 will in fact reduce access to medical services, increase health care costs, and diminish health care employment opportunities.”

A detailed analysis by the California Hospital Association foresees that the whole annual increase in cost to the health care system will be around $8 billion starting in 2024, surging up to $11.3 billion (in constant 2024 dollars) by 2030.

Carmela Coyle, President & CEO, California Hospital Association, Sacramento said, “This comes at a time when California hospitals continue to grapple with an unprecedented financial crisis, and patients are already seeing a degradation in their access to health care services,

The group is part of a wider coalition that opposes this bill.

Source: Techstory

Hospitals in California experienced shortages of staff in the pre-Covid period and the pandemic forced many healthcare workers to exhaustion, further disturbing the situation. Then, the state mandated vaccine requirement which provoked more nurses to leave the profession, further affecting hospitals already running low on staff. According to the Kaufman Hall report, one in five hospitals in California risk closure. The state’s hospitals have been in financial loss of as much as $20 billion over the last three years, in spite of federal Covid relief funds.

Mirell Vong, a patient registration representative at Mercy Hospital of Folsom said, “I’m glad that the State Senate listened to healthcare workers like me and heard the truth about how we are exhausted and burned out, how short staffing means we are doing double and triple work, and how our patients are left waiting to get the care they need. I’m glad they weren’t fooled by hospital industry lobbyists who claim they don’t have the money to pay us better when we know the truth: they are raking in profits and paying executives million-dollar salaries.”