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Healthcare workers to rally in LA Friday, seeking statewide $25 minimum wage

Hundreds of healthcare workers plan to rally in downtown Los Angeles on Friday, Sept. 9, urging support for a statewide $25 minimum wage.

The workers, represented by SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, say the momentum is building after city councils in Los Angeles, Downey, Monterey Park and Long Beach passed ordinances establishing a $25 minimum wage.

Selene Castillo, a certified nursing assistant at Dignity St. Mary’s Medical Center in Long Beach, said the work she and her coworkers do is “physically, mentally and emotionally demanding.”

“We do this job, risking our own health and safety because we truly care about helping people,” Castillo said in a statement. “We deserve to make a fair living wage.”

Castillo said one of her co-workers who started during the pandemic recently quit and left the medical field because of the mental strain and long hours.

“I’ve seen many people come and go because of the low wages, high stress and health risks,” she said.

A recent survey of more than 30,000 SEIU-UHW members highlights the short-staffing crisis in California, with 83% of respondents saying their facility is understaffed and up to 20% saying they’ve considered leaving the field in the past year.

Cities that have approved $25 minimum wage ordinances have come under fire because the increase applies to healthcare employees in private hospitals, integrated health systems and dialysis clinics while excluding employees who do the same jobs at public hospitals and healthcare clinics.

A study from Berkeley Research Group predicts minimum wage hikes will fuel higher salaries for others earning more than minimum wage as well, increasing healthcare costs by hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Those currently making $25 to $29.99 an hour would see an increase of 19%, the study said, while others earning $30 to $34.99 an hour would get a 9.5% raise.

The report was commissioned by the California Hospitals Committee on Issues, a group that takes positions on ballot initiatives of interest to the hospital community.

On July 8, Los Angeles became the first Southern California city to approve a $25 minimum wage for healthcare workers.

“It is time we put them first,” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said when he signed the ordinance into law. “Our healthcare heroes deserve fair compensation for their critical work, countless sacrifices and incredible service to our city and its people.”

Friday’s rally will start at the Hospital Association of Southern California office at 515 S. Figueroa St., followed by a march along Flower Street between 4th and 5th streets.

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