Newsom approves minimum wage for health care workers The proposal was a top priority for SEIU, a powerful labor union that’s been trying for years to secure a minimum wage for health care workers.

Governor Gavin Newsom has officially signed Senate Bill 525 into law, bringing significant wage increases for healthcare workers in California. The bill, proposed by Senator María Elena Durazo, will raise the minimum wage for most healthcare workers to $25 per hour. This decision comes as a response to the workforce shortage that has been exacerbated during the pandemic, as many healthcare workers left their jobs due to challenging conditions.

The involvement of the governor's office in the negotiations between hospitals, clinics, and unions was not as direct as it was with the fast-food labor deal. Governor Newsom often cites cost concerns when vetoing bills, and an analysis of an earlier version of this bill estimated an annual cost of $1 billion for the state.

Labor leaders have expressed their satisfaction with the decision, stating that it will help retain healthcare workers and ensure they can support themselves financially. Tia Orr, Executive Director of SEIU California, described it as a significant win for workers and patients seeking care.

In order to gain support from hospitals, dialysis centers, and community clinics, the SEIU agreed to halt their pursuit of dialysis industry regulation through the ballot for the next four years. This marks a pause in the ongoing conflicts between the two parties. Additionally, the final bill states that a statewide healthcare worker minimum wage will supersede any local ordinances.

The support from Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas played a crucial role in advancing the minimum wage agenda. Rivas publicly endorsed the $25 wage early in his tenure, providing a critical boost to the bill's passage.

It is worth noting that an earlier analysis estimated that this legislation could cost the state over $1 billion annually. This proposal has been a longstanding priority for SEIU, as they have been advocating for a minimum wage for healthcare workers despite opposition from hospital interests. Last year, a last-minute deal with hospitals fell through, leading the union to pursue city-by-city wage ordinances in Southern California.

With this signing, organized labor celebrates a mixed legislative season. While proposals regarding self-driving trucks and extending unemployment insurance benefits to striking workers were rejected by Governor Newsom, the successful passage of the healthcare worker minimum wage bill marks a significant victory for the labor movement.  

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