A petition to raise the minimum wage for all workers in public healthcare facilities to $25 an hour was certified by Los Angeles County election officials this month, meaning the council now has two options: let voters decide on Nov. 7 or approve the language of the ballot as a city ordinance without change.
The citywide minimum wage in Long Beach is $15 per hour for large companies and $14 per hour for companies with fewer than 25 employees.
The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is launching the petition, which claims that workers ranging from technicians to food service workers have been underpaid while working during the pandemic as essential workers.
“Just because you’re understaffed doesn’t mean you’re not going to feed two floors of patients,” said Kimberly Estrada, food service worker at Dignity Health St. Mary Medical Center. “We do it because we have to; we care about our patients.
A coalition of healthcare providers, including MemorialCare, St. Mary’s and others in the area, say the effort is unfair because it unfairly targets private healthcare facilities and would pay those employees more than workers in public facilities doing the same job.
“It excludes the majority of city workers,” said Kristen Pugh, vice president of advocacy and government relations for MemorialCare. “This could worsen inequalities in the health system and compromise access to care.”
It’s unclear whether passing the measure would result in closures or negatively affect access to health care in Long Beach.
City council members voted in June to look into the matter, but the city has struggled to find a company to manage the study, which is supposed to inform city council about how the proposal could affect workers of the city and the city’s health system. .
However, it wasn’t until this week that the city was able to find a company willing to take on the job on such short notice, noting that several companies rejected the offer due to the turnaround time likely not allowing for the job. completion of a real economic impact study.
The city announced this week that it hired the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, the same entity that conducted a similar study for the city as it sought to raise the citywide minimum wage in 2015.
Johnny Vallejo, the city’s acting director of economic development, said Tuesday evening that a survey will be released this week and the hope is that a report will be made available to council before its Aug. 2 meeting. He has until Aug. 9 to place any ballot measures or charter amendments on the ballot.
The 64-page report that LAEDC wrote for the city before council approved the 2015 minimum wage increase included several town hall meetings that allowed residents on both sides of the issue to weigh in, which shouldn’t not happen in the next two weeks.
Long Beach is the largest remaining city considering such a measure supported by the SEIU-UHW. The Los Angeles City Council voted to pass the measure as an ordinance earlier this year, but now the No On Unequal Pay Measure coalition is calling for a referendum to overturn the law.
Other cities like Inglewood, Monterey Park and Duarte, where similar petitions circulated, chose to put the issue on the ballot. Downey adopted him as a prescription last week.
The coalition against the pay rise is funded by the California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, a group that has historically raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and funneled it into political campaigns. Association members have warned in recent weeks that passing the wage increase could lead to service cuts or an even greater shortage of workers than currently exists.
“They have a lot of money to invest in this campaign,” said Rene Saldana, spokesperson for SEIU-UHW. “What we’re trying to do is get them to put that money back into health care and their patients.”
SEIW-UHW has already contributed tens of thousands of dollars to this year’s mayoral race in support of council member Rex Richardson, who is backed by a number of area labor groups in his run against the member. of Council Suzie Price.
If the issue is put on the ballot, neither the Richardson nor Price camps fear it will be an election issue.
Danielle Cenejas, a consultant for Richardson’s campaign, said ballot metrics are generally not “turnout triggers” but “turnout takers” because they require so much voter education.
“We are in a good position and know we have a good message and we have to make sure we keep pushing,” Cendejas said.
Orrin Evans, spokesperson for the Price campaign, said voter motivations in November will likely be similar to what they were in June: crime, homelessness and housing.
If the minimum wage increase passes, it will likely join three other charter amendments the city is considering that would change how police department oversight is done, combine the city’s water and gas utilities, and would permanently align the city’s electoral cycle. with that of the state.
City council to consider three charter amendments for Nov. 8 election
Long Beach plans to raise minimum wage for healthcare workers