California union seeks $25/hour statewide minimum wage increase after earthquake deal falls through

Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West said Aug. 23 that it will urge California lawmakers to enact a statewide $25 per hour minimum wage for healthcare workers.

The announcement came after the collapse of a deal Aug. 23 between the union and California Hospital Association to change earthquake standards in hospitals, the Los Angeles Times reported.   

The California Hospital Association has been pushing lawmakers to narrow the scope of and delay 2030 state seismic safety requirements for facilities. Meanwhile, the union has pushed for ordinances in California cities establishing a $25 minimum hourly wage for workers at private healthcare facilities. The union has said raising the minimum wage would help address workforce challenges, while the association has called such ordinances "deeply flawed" and exclude many healthcare workers.

Under the proposal drafted by the two groups that collapsed Aug. 23, the association sought to delay 2030 state seismic safety requirements for hospitals by seven years and limit them to facilities that provide emergency services, according to a draft of the proposal obtained by the Los Angeles Times. In exchange, the association would agree to a minimum wage plan that would raise the hourly minimum wage for healthcare workers to between $19 and $24 beginning in January, according to the newspaper. Lawmakers would have had to sign off on the deal by the time the legislative session ends Aug. 31.

"Proposed legislation to address two critical issues — reform of the 2030 hospital seismic mandate and a thoughtful approach to increasing wages for healthcare workers — was unable to make it over the finish line," Jan Emerson-Shea, California Hospital Association vice president of external affairs, said in a statement shared with Becker's. "These are both big, important issues that must be addressed — but with the end of the legislative session only a week away — we just simply ran out of time this year."

The association also wrote in a memo obtained by the Los Angeles Times that opposition from other union groups was a contributing factor to the deal not advancing.

The union contends the association "walked away from a conceptual agreement that would have broadly established a healthcare worker minimum wage of up to $25 and update the timeline and scope for seismic upgrades to hospitals. The hospital industry demanded a loophole that would have allowed hospitals to evade the new minimum wage by outsourcing or moving work to other facilities. The hospital industry also refused to commit to using properly trained construction workers to ensure safety in seismic upgrades of their facilities."

Now, Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West has announced it is calling on state lawmakers to establish a $25 hourly minimum wage for healthcare workers within the year.

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