California Senate Passes $25 Minimum Wage for Health Care Workers Amid Concerns Hospitals Could Go Out of Business

Wim De Gent
By Wim De Gent
June 6, 2023USshare
California Senate Passes $25 Minimum Wage for Health Care Workers Amid Concerns Hospitals Could Go Out of Business
The California state Capitol in Sacramento on March 11, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Lawmakers in the California Senate advanced a bill that raises the minimum wage for health workers to $25 an hour. The bill passed with a bare minimum of 21 votes and now awaits approval from the California State Assembly.

Introduced by Los Angeles Democratic Sen. Maria Elena Durazo and supported by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the bill would require any covered health care facility to pay the new minimum wage to all workers on their premises, regardless of employer.

The new minimum-wage directive applies not only to nurses and caregivers but to all personnel working on health care facilities’ premises, including janitors, kitchen personnel, cleaning personnel—even gift shop employees.

“I can’t fix all of the problems in our health care system with one bill,” Durazo told the Sacramento Bee after the initial vote. “That was not the purpose. The purpose was to elevate the role of the workers who provide us these services.”

On its first voting attempt, the bill came up three votes short, as both Republicans and Democrats voiced their concern about the financial impact of the bill on already struggling hospitals.

“I worry about this bill in a lot of ways,” said Democratic state Sen. Dave Min, who did vote for the bill. “I have deep concerns that this bill may end up causing health care facilities to exit the state, to go out of business, at a time when we really need them.”

Before the vote, Rony Berdugo, vice president of state advocacy for the hospital association, pleaded the Senate in April (pdf) to oppose the bill, as it “does not account for the current economics of health care,” pointing to the fact that currently one in five California hospitals are at risk of closure.

A cost analysis (pdf) commissioned by a coalition that opposes the bill estimates the total increase in labor costs to amount to $8 billion across the state in 2024, warning that the rise will exceed $11 billion by 2030.

“Sometimes our generosity and compassion exceeds our ability to pay and serve,” said Republican Sen. Kelly Seyarto of Murrieta. “What has to be done first is you have to address the financial stability of the hospital health care system.”

The new legislation didn’t receive a single Republican vote.

The SEIU union was pleased with the bill.

“I’m glad that the state Senate listened to health care 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,” said Mirell Vong, a representative at Mercy Hospital of Folsom, in a statement provided by SEIU California that also denounced the “million-dollar salaries” of health care executives.

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