SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the California Senate endorsed the $25 healthcare minimum wage bill championed by SEIU members to fix a care crisis affecting patients at every point in the healthcare system, from nursing homes and dialysis clinics to hospitals and community health centers. Authored by Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), SB 525 creates a first-in-the-nation statewide healthcare worker minimum wage of $25/hr to retain and attract new workers in the healthcare field.
“California’s healthcare workforce crisis and the crisis in patient care are one and the same – I can’t cover two or three times my share of residents without staying up at night worrying that fragile elderly people in my care are more likely to fall, get an infection, or suffer from feeling abandoned,” said Christina Lockyer-White, a certified nursing assistant at Bakersfield Rehabilitation Center and First Vice President of SEIU 2015. “I’m exhausted and heartsick from the physical and emotional stress, but with today’s vote I’m even more optimistic that California’s leaders are hearing us and taking action.”
Dr. Haia Chakoukani, a family medicine resident physician from UCLA Health said, ”Healthcare workers are fighting for the kind of care our patients deserve – fully staffed hospitals, timely access to care, and providers and staff who come from our patients’ communities and speak their language. Today’s vote brings us a step closer to the care my patients need to be healthy.”
The Senate vote came after more than 600 health care workers – from medical assistants, nursing home caregivers, dialysis and community clinic workers and resident physicians marched on the State Capitol last week. After rallying at the Capitol, they took their demand for a $25 health care minimum wage to the headquarters of the California Hospital Association, which lobbies for the hospital industry, and the California Primary Care Association, the lobbying association of community clinics.
“I’m glad that the State Senate listened to healthcare 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 patient registration representative at Mercy Hospital of Folsom. “I’m glad they weren’t fooled by hospital industry lobbyists who claim they don’t have the money to pay us better when we know the truth: they are raking in profits and paying executives million-dollar salaries.”
Healthcare workers are leaving at alarming rates due to the compounding effects of low wages, burnout, and exhaustion, causing longer wait times for patients and impacting the quality of patient care. Meanwhile, the state’s largest healthcare systems are making record profits. Combined net income for large hospitals and health systems in California for fiscal years 2020 to 2022 was more than $38 billion.
“Today the State Senate supported California’s values of health equity by voting to make community clinic work a viable career,” said Steve Valenciano, a Mental Health Therapist at Kedren Community Health in Los Angeles. “Delivering quality care to California’s safety net patients means we must have a strong, diverse workforce that looks like California and speaks the languages Californians speak. Today’s vote is a step toward recruitment and retention of people like me who want to serve our communities and have rewarding healthcare careers.”
According to a recently published University of California Berkeley Labor Center report, a $25 healthcare worker minimum wage would lift wages for about 469,100 healthcare 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 healthcare workers affected are Latino.