California Health Care Workers to Get $25 an Hour Minimum Wage

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California Health Care Workers to Get $25 an Hour Minimum Wage

A registered nurse cares for COVID-19 patients in an intensive care unit at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, Calif., on Jan. 21, 2021. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

10/17/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

A new California law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Oct. 13 will raise the minimum wage for most hourly and salaried health care workers—phased in to $25 an hour over the next few years—and give them the right to sue employers to enforce the measure.
Senate Bill (SB) 525, authored by Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), replaces the state’s current base pay of $15.50 an hour for workers—including nurses, janitors, and resident physicians—in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, dialysis clinics, behavioral health centers, and other health care facilities.
Ms. Durazo thanked the governor Oct. 13 for signing the legislation.
“Thank you, Governor Newsom, for signing SB 525, a historic investment in our healthcare workforce,” she posted on X, formerly Twitter.
Assemblyman Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), Speaker of the Assembly, also celebrated Newsom’s approval, saying the bill recognizes health care workers’ value.
“We’ve delivered a long-overdue and much-earned raise to California’s health care workers,” Mr. Rivas said in an online statement. “I’m proud the Legislature made this happen, and grateful Governor Newsom showed bold leadership and signed it into law. This raise puts more money in the pockets of working Californians, which injects money into local economies, and that’s positive for everyone.”
The legislation, which is the first statewide health care worker minimum wage in the country, raises the minimum pay for all workers at hospitals or health care facilities with more than 10,000 full-time employees; any health care facilities that are part of an integrated health care system; county health care systems with 10,000 or more full-time employees, or operated by a county with a population of more than 5 million.
Pay for these employees will start at $23 an hour starting June 1, 2024, rising to $24 an hour June 1, 2025, and reaching $25 an hour June 1, 2026.
The new minimum wage scale is less for workers at hospitals that are supported in part by governmental funds, rural health care facilities, or county facilities in areas with 250,000 or fewer residents. Those employees will get $18 an hour starting June 1, 2024, with 3.5 percent yearly increases before the minimum is raised to $25 an hour June 1, 2033.
For primary care clinics, community clinics, rural health clinics, and urgent clinics, the minimum wage will jump to $21 per hour on June 1, 2024, and increase to $22 an hour June 1, 2026. The wage will top out at $25 per hour June 1, 2027.
For all other covered health care facility employers, the rate will increase to $21 per hour June 1, 2024, and climb to $23 an hour June 1, 2026, before reaching $25 an hour June 1, 2028.
Once the $25 hourly wage is reached for each health care sector, California’s director of finance will calculate an adjusted minimum wage that increases by at least 3.5 percent based on the U.S. Consumer Price Index.
Health care workers at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., on Dec. 16, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Health care workers at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., on Dec. 16, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Salaried workers will earn a monthly salary equivalent to up to 200 percent of the health care worker minimum wage, as required by the state.
The legislation aims to address a patient care crisis caused by a health care workforce shortage, Ms. Durazo said when introducing the bill in February.
“Women and workers of color who are the backbone of our healthcare system have been underpaid and devalued for decades,” said Ms. Durazo, in a Feb. 15 press release introducing the bill. “They’ve risked their lives and health and are working multiple shifts only to take home poverty wages in understaffed facilities. We need to ensure that healthcare workers are paid livable wages so that everyone can have access to timely quality care.”
The new law will also give workers the right to sue employers if they do not implement the new minimum wage scale. Violations would be a crime, enforceable by the state’s labor commissioner.
The legislation was sponsored by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)-United Health Workers, representing about 2 million members in health care, the public sector, and property services.
SEIU-United Health Workers argued that “[c]are work has historically been undervalued by society,” according to a legislative analysis of the bill.
Those opposed to the legislation included the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, asserting that “the inclusion of [registered nurses] in this bill will ultimately lower the wage floor for [registered nurses], encouraging employers to propose takeaways on wages during bargaining,” according to a legislative analysis.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage for California registered nurses is $54.44, the highest in the nation.
Earlier this month, unionized health care workers at Kaiser Permanente held a three-day strike across the nation, including several locations in California, seeking better pay and more staffing. Unions representing some 75,000 employees participated in the nation’s largest health care strike in history.
The unions reached a tentative agreement with Kaiser Permanente Oct. 13. Details of the deal have not yet been made public.
Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

Author

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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