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Council Votes to Draft Minimum Wage Law for Health Care Workers

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By Jorge Casuso

April 12, 2023 -- The City Council directed staff shortly after midnight Tuesday to draft a minimum wage ordinance for health care workers that one Council member acknowledged could be "irrelevant."

The proposed law would set a minimum wage of at least $25 an hour for "frontline care givers" at Santa Monica hospitals, clinics, and psychiatric facilities, and for those who provide home care services ("Santa Monica Could Set Minimum Wage for Healthcare Workers," April 10, 2023).

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The Council members voted by acclimation to direct City staff -- which they have noted is overburdened with work -- to research and draft the ordinance, which largely mirrors a Senate bill working its way through the legislature.

"There is actually a State law that is currently pending that would do this in any event," said Mayor Gleam Davis, one of three Councilmembers who placed the item on the agenda. "This is only direction to staff."

"What we do may become irrelevant because the State may supersede us anyway," said Councilmember Phil Brock, who co-sponsored the item along with Councilmmber Jesse Zwick .

The measure is meant to address a growing shortage of health care workers and acknowledge their worth to the community, the item's sponsors said.

"They are fantastic," said Brock, who said he had accompanied firefighters to Saint John's Health Center six times in the past week. "Whatever they get paid is not enough."

Hospitals "don't have the staff members they need, and the staff members they have are leaving quickly," Brock said.

Hiking their minimum wage to nearly $9 above the Santa Monica minimum of $15.96 an hour, he said, would also show those "who clean up blood and debris" at health care facilities that they are valued.

"Our health care workers are heroes," Zwick said. "I believe our health care industry can sustain (the proposed hike) here."

The California Hospital Association -- which represents more than 400 hospitals in the state -- opposes raising the minimum wage to $25, saying it will only worsen a crisis that has put the State's health care system "on the edge of a cliff."

Councilmember Caroline Torosis wasn't buying it. She noted the health care and hospital system had spent $12 million to oppose $25 minimum wage measures in 10 California cities.

The money, she said, would have been better spent giving the workers raises.

"We know businesses are going to be opposed because it affects their bottom line," Torosis said. "I am not convinced that our health care providers aren't making a profit here off the backs of their workers.

"I want to make sure that workers are even getting a modicum of what they need to live in this city."

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