By Sheri Williams
In a first-in-the-nation move, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed legislation that will ensure a $25 dollar minimum wage for California health care workers.
“California is putting a stop to the hemorrhaging of our care workforce by ensuring health care workers can do the work they love and pay their bills—a huge win for workers and patients seeking care,” said Tia Orr, Executive Director of SEIU California.
SEIU was the union behind the bill, Senate Bill 525, that created the raise in wages. The bill was authored by labor champion Maria Elena Durazo.
“Californians saw the courage and commitment of health care workers during the pandemic, and now that same fearlessness and commitment to patients is responsible for a historic investment in the workers who make our health care system strong and accessible to all. We applaud Governor Newsom for signing this bill and making history for California as the first state to lift the floor on health care worker wages to $25,” Orr said.
The new law means that employees at large facilities including many hospitals will see their wages increase to $23 an hour next year. That will increase to $24 an hour in 2025 and another dollar in 2026 to reach the full amount. The raises will go to all employees regardless of their job classifications, including support workers such as those who work in laundry facilities, security, groundskeepers or gift shops.
Rural hospitals, which often struggle financially, will have more time to implement the raises, as will facilities with high percentages of Medicare and Medi-Cal patients. Wages at those facilities will be required to pay a minimum of $18 an hour beginning next year. But the full $25 an hour will not be required until 2033.
Smaller medical facilities, such as skilled nursing operators and urgent care clinics, also fall under the new law. They will be required to pay all employees $21 an hour beginning next year and meet the $25 an hour wage by 2028.
According to a recently published University of California Berkeley Labor Center report, a $25 health care worker minimum wage would lift wages for about 455,000 health care workers.
Three out of four – or 75.4% – of workers who would see increases in wages are women, and 76% are workers of color. Almost half of all health care workers affected are Latino.
This bill signing, “marks a historic investment in the people who make health care possible and shape patients’ experience of care. We are medical assistants, housekeepers, nutrition workers, and more, and everyday we see the impact of our state’s health care shortage on patients,” said Mauricio Medina, Unit Secretary at Southern California Hospital in Hollywood. “Workers standing together across all parts of the health care system are making sure that care is more accessible and equitable for all, and I’m grateful that Gov. Newsom stands with us. ”
“I am thankful to Governor Newsom and state legislators for listening to workers on the frontlines of health care and responding with worker-led solutions that make care better for our patients,” said Lakeisha Gant, Medical Assistant at Families Together of Orange County. “Investing in health care workers will allow more of us to live in the communities that we serve, where we share the experiences, language, and culture of our patients. This new law invests in women workers and workers of color and says we are valued.”
“Alongside other hospital workers, nursing home workers, dialysis center workers and staff in clinics, we made our case to our state government and they listened! Governor Newsom signed SB 525 into law because he heard our call for change to a status quo that has left us exhausted and struggling to pay our bills,” said Dr. Kelley Butler, resident physician at San Francisco General Hospital. “I’m proud of our collective advocacy as a union and proud of our Governor for doing right by the California health care workforce and the patients it serves.”