A coalition of Los Angeles hospitals and other healthcare facilities launched a campaign on Tuesday to repeal a newly enacted ordinance raising the minimum wage for thousands of healthcare workers to $25 an hour, saying the law will have a detrimental effect on medical care across the city.
The No on the Unequal Pay Measure Coalition, a group sponsored by the California Assn. of hospitals and health systems, said he would start collecting signatures this week for a referendum to put the issue of wage increases to voters.
To qualify the referendum for the ballot, the coalition would need to collect nearly 41,000 valid signatures from Los Angeles voters within 30 days. Such a move, if successful, would prevent the wage increase from taking effect — at least until an election to determine its fate.
The coalition acted just days after Mayor Eric Garcetti signed the measure. Appearing last week at an order-signing ceremony, he said higher wages would lead to better health care, help hospitals and other facilities retain workers and reduce staff turnover. .
“It’s going to make your industry stronger,” Garcetti told workers at Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, the union that lobbied for the wage increase.
Opponents of the wage increase strongly disagree, saying it will abruptly upend the finances of health facilities in the region and jeopardize access to health services.
At Gateways Hospital and Echo Park Mental Health Center, administrators have said they are considering cutting operations – possibly by as much as 20% – as a way to absorb rising costs. The 300-bed psychiatric facility serves a large number of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, hospital CEO Phil Wong said in an interview.
In Woodland Hills, the nonprofit Motion Picture and Television Fund is now seeking to cover a $1.5 million annual increase in labor costs, according to Bob Beitcher, the fund’s chief executive. This increase is currently expected to take effect in August.
Beitcher said some security guards at the 300-bed campus of the Motion Picture Fund, which provides care for seniors who have retired from the entertainment industry, would receive pay increases of 40% to 50%. Some practical nurses would see pay increases of 30% to 40%, he said.
“The only way we could absorb this is either to cut services, which is not something we would like to do, or to raise additional funds of one and a half million [dollars] per year,” he said.
The city council voted to approve the pay rise last month, boosting pay for a range of employees, including security guards, receptionists, orderlies, cleaners, gardeners., janitors and others who work in private hospitals, clinics and skilled nursing facilities that are part of these hospitals, and dialysis clinics, among other health facilities specified as part of the measure. They did so over objections from hospital leaders, who said the city hadn’t bothered to analyze the financial impact on the area’s medical system.
The SEIU-UHW initially collected more than 145,000 signatures to put the salary increase on the Nov. 8 ballot. Councilors Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson decided to act faster, pushing their colleagues to pass the measure immediately.
“Now is the time to show these workers that we see them, that we appreciate them and that we appreciate all the sacrifices” made since the outbreak of COVID-19, Price said last month, before the board votes. the first of two votes on the ordinance.
SEIU-UHW endorsed six of 15 board members in this year’s election, including Price, who just won a third term representing part of South Los Angeles. Two of them – Councilmen Mitch O’Farrell and Paul Koretz – are on the ballot on Nov. 8. (Representative Karen Bass, a mayoral candidate, also has union support.)
For weeks at City Hall, union members argued that health care companies had made huge profits while workers at the bottom struggled to pay for gas and rent – sometimes turning to a second job.
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Mauricio Medina, a nursing assistant who works at Southern California Hospital in Hollywood, said many of his colleagues were considering quitting and seeking better paying jobs outside of the medical profession.
“A co-worker of mine who just welcomed a new baby just got an eviction notice because he and his wife are behind on their bills,” said Medina, who lives downtown. He said he and his co-workers set up a GoFundMe to help the co-worker pay for his baby’s diapers and milk.
The union estimated the higher pay will cover about 4,500 union workers and potentially more than 10,000 non-union workers at more than 102 workplaces, including those operated by Kaiser Permanente and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. About half of the workplaces affected by the measure would be dialysis centers, according to a representative of the SEIU-UHW.
After the hospital group launched its efforts on Tuesday to end the wage measure, SEIU-UHW spokeswoman Renée Saldaña said “greedy hospital executives have seen record pandemic windfalls, but they don’t ‘have no plan to solve the staffing crisis plaguing Los Angeles hospitals’.
“They are out of step with local voters if they think the solution is to cut the salaries of the caregivers who got us through the pandemic,” Saldaña said. “The issue that needs to be addressed is excessive executive compensation that is driving up health care costs for Angelenos.”
Hospital officials have described the order as arbitrary and unfair because it covers only a fraction of healthcare facilities, excluding county government-run hospitals, such as the Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar. . and LAC+ USC Medical Center, and Federally Qualified Health Centers – community clinics that provide care to underserved areas or populations.
They predicted that workers in public hospitals and community clinics would likely seek high-paying jobs in private facilities, creating a talent drain for facilities operating in low-income communities.
George Greene, President and CEO of Hospital Assn. of Southern California, pushed back against the idea that area hospitals are hugely profitable. Many, he said, are “in shock” financially after 2 and a half years of battling a pandemic, he said.
“There was no analysis of what this would entail for hospitals,” Greene said.
Union officials said their measure did not cover public facilities because the city could not set rates for county and state employees. SEIU-UHW is also supporting a bill in the state legislature to raise salaries at federally qualified health centers to at least $25.
“All healthcare workers should earn a minimum wage of $25, but there are different routes to achieve this,” Saldaña said.
Private hospital workers aren’t the only workers to earn their own minimum wage in Los Angeles. Unite Here Local 11, which runs independent campaigns to elect municipal candidates, has a minimum wage of $18.86 under municipal law.
For other Los Angeles workers, the minimum wage is $16.04 per hour.
Times editor Emily Alpert Reyes contributed to this report.