Voters will likely decide the fate of hospital worker wage hikes

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Hospital groups and other opponents of a City of Los Angeles measure that raises the minimum wage for thousands of workers in private healthcare facilities have managed to muster enough signatures to force the city council to either repeal or put the issue on the ballot, Los Angeles city officials concluded.

Los Angeles leaders voted earlier this year to raise the minimum wage to $25 an hour for some workers at private hospitals, dialysis clinics and a range of other hospital-affiliated healthcare facilities. private, backing an effort championed by healthcare worker union SEIU-UHW. Union leaders and city officials have argued that it would help hospitals retain workers who have felt devalued during the pandemic.

Hospital groups argued the pay measure would wreak havoc on the industry and ultimately hurt patients.

They launched a campaign to stop the ballot measure and put it to a referendum vote; hospital groups also sued the city over the wage ordinance, arguing that it was arbitrary and unfair because only certain types of facilities were selected for higher wages.

To put the wage measure on the ballot, the Hospital Coalition needed to collect 40,717 valid signatures from registered voters in the city. No to measuring wage inequality in Los Angeles Campaign, a group sponsored by the California Assn. of Hospitals and Health Systems, said it has delivered more than 88,000 signatures to the City of Los Angeles Clerk.

The LA City Clerk confirmed on Wednesday that the referendum effort was successful in meeting the city’s demands, based on an initial count and a random sampling of signatures to verify their validity.

According to city rules, the clerk will provide a “certification of sufficiency” to the city council, which then has 20 days to repeal the ordinance, call a special election for voters to decide its fate, or put it to a vote at the time. of a regular meeting. planned municipal election. If the council opts for an election, the LA ordinance will remain pending until voters decide its fate.

Opponents of the wage measure welcomed the news, saying voters would likely weigh in in 2024.

“Los Angeles voters have made it clear they want the right to vote on the unfair and unequal compensation ordinance that excludes workers from 90% of the city’s healthcare facilities,” said George W. Greene, president. and CEO of Hospital Assn. of Southern California, said in a statement.

SEIU-UHW spokeswoman Renée Saldaña said in a statement that “as healthcare workers leave the industry in droves due to the trauma of the pandemic and record inflation, it is outrageous that millionaire hospital executives are trying to cut the salaries of their lowest-paid employees.”

“We are confident that voters will support frontline caregivers over greedy CEOs and we look forward to seeing similar measures enacted in cities across California,” Saldaña said.

The union also alleged that signature collectors for the referendum campaign misled Angelenos to get signatures, telling people their signatures were needed “to pay workers more” and “to raise wages for workers in the city.” health,” according to incident reports collected by SEIU-UHW.

The union group said it had handed over more than 1,000 forms from people seeking to withdraw their signatures after learning more about the referendum.

Reacting to the complaints, opponents of the wage measure said their petition and message had been clear – that “the ordinance is bad policy that is unfair and unfair to working people.”

The LA measure does not cover public hospitals and a series of clinics that are not affiliated with private hospitals. Union officials, when asked about its limited scope, said the city could not legally set wages for county and state employees and added that they had pursued a state measure to raise wages to at least $25 an hour in community clinics.

SEIU-UHW has also lobbied to raise wages for private hospital workers in other LA County cities. Similar salary measures for health workers have also been adopted in Long Beach and Downey; in Duarte and Inglewood, such proposals are heading to the ballot for voters to decide in November.

Monterey Park council members also voted in favor of a $25 hourly wage, but the decision was the subject of a legal challenge and a judge ruled that it could not be enforced, although the case could still head to the ballot.

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Los Angeles Times

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