By Investing in Workers, California Will Show the Nation What Equitable Recovery Looks Like 

Press Contact:
Mike Roth, 916.444.7170 Maria Elena Jauregui, Spanish-language, 818.355.5291
May 12, 2022

Sacramento, CA – Members of the Service Employees International Union in California responded enthusiastically to Governor Newsom’s announcement that California’s minimum wage will rise to $15.50 and applauded his proposal for retention bonuses for health care workers, including nursing home workers. David Huerta, President of SEIU California and SEIU-USWW (United Service Workers West) said: 

“Investing in workers is the only way to have an equitable recovery. SEIU members strongly support Governor Newsom’s actions to lift up the workers who are struggling most from the double whammy of COVID and soaring prices. 

“Increasing the minimum wage at this time of spiking prices is a just and urgently needed measure: we applaud the Administration’s actions to help working families cope with the inflation largely driven by corporate greed in this time of crisis.

“Health care workers are exhausted from the physical toll and enduring trauma of the last two and a half years and are experiencing yet another variant-driven case wave. It’s clear California can’t let down our guard. The Governor’s proposed retention bonuses not only recognize the bravery and sacrifice of health care workers, they are life-saving investments that will help ensure our frontline against COVID remains strong. 

“The pandemic revealed an indisputable truth: where workers have a voice, they create safer workplaces and more resilient communities; that’s why the movement of workers standing together to form unions is surging across the nation. To ensure California never repeats the mistakes that led to devastatingly unequal consequences of this pandemic, we must deploy our record budget surplus to meet this moment in history. This year’s state budget must strengthen standards for the workforce serving communities of color in community health centers and empower our devalued nursing home workforce to transform their vital work serving vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities.

“If the Governor’s complete budget proposal reflects these same values, California will indeed set a bar for the nation both in the strength of our health care system and our path toward equity.” 

Worker reactions

On minimum wage increase:
“When workers unite and organize, we have the power to improve the lives of everyone in our state,” said Guillermina Blancas, a McDonald’s worker and leader in the Fight for $15 and a Union. “For nine years, fast food workers like me have been organizing, going on strike and speaking out to make $15 an hour both a reality for workers and a starting point for tackling poverty across California. Today’s wage increase gives families like mine a lifeline as it becomes harder each day to keep up with the rent and keep food on the table. There’s much more work to do to not only raise wage standards in industries like fast food, but to also address systemic issues of worker exploitation and abuse like wage theft and discrimination. We look forward to Gov. Newsom being with us every step of the way.”

On healthcare worker retention incentive (hospital worker):
“This proposal shows that the governor understands that the healthcare worker staffing crisis we’re living through requires immediate attention,” said Gabe Montoya, an emergency room technician and SEIU-UHW member. “This incentive pay will help retain skilled and experienced caregivers to begin addressing the critical staffing shortage in our healthcare facilities. Frontline healthcare workers appreciate Governor Newsom for listening to and supporting us throughout this pandemic.”  

On healthcare worker retention incentive (nursing home worker):
“Nursing home workers are leaving this profession in droves because corporate operators continue to put profits ahead of people,” said Christina Lockyer-White, a nursing home worker in Bakersfield. “Retention pay will definitely help us all. It is a great first step. Workers also need a voice and a seat at the table to transform this troubled industry.”