Union alleges Angelenos being misled to block wage increase

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities have tried to block a Los Angeles regulation that would raise the minimum wage to $25 an hour for thousands of workers in private hospitals and dialysis clinics.

If they get the nearly 41,000 signatures needed for a referendum before an upcoming deadline, the pay rise could be put on hold pending an election where voters would decide their fate.

But officials from SEIU-UHW, the union of healthcare workers that pushed for the pay rise, claim the signature collectors for the referendum misled Angelenos by telling them their signatures were needed “to pay workers more ‘ and ‘to boost healthcare workers’ wages,’ according to incident reports collected by the union.

At a Vons grocery store in Mission Hills, “the lady said, ‘Sign this to pay workers more,'” according to one of the reports compiled by SEIU-UHW. Another report said another signature collector found a sign at a Westside target that read, “Support $25/HR. for Healthcare Workers in LA”

SEIU-UHW sent these and dozens of other complaints about alleged violations of the election laws, including inaccurate testimonies about the petition and refusal to read signers, to the LA County Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles City Government Office this week. Under California law, it is illegal for anyone circulating a petition to knowingly misrepresent what it would do.

Opponents of the wage measure claimed that their petition and messages – including ads and door-to-door contacting – were clear about their purpose. The no to unequal pay in Los Angeles Campaign, a group sponsored by the California Assn. of Hospitals and Health Systems, said in a statement: “We have been consistent and open about our reasons for the referendum – the regulation is bad policy that is unjust and unfair to workers and we want to give voters the right to vote.” decide. ”

“Even the language of the petition itself, which the voters sign [as] Our materials and advertising were clear – we ask voters to sign the petition to bring this unequal and flawed policy to a vote,” the referendum campaign statement said.

The group, which is trying to stop the wage hike, also provided copies of signs it said had been given to signature collectors, including slogans such as “Equal pay for all – not just 10% of our healthcare workers”. The Hospital Coalition argues that the regulation wrongly singles out some healthcare facilities for wage increases and not others.

SEIU-UHW officials complained that signature collectors had repeatedly claimed that the referendum would increase wages. In one of his incident reports, a union official explained that a man collecting signatures outside a Walmart in Porter Ranch claimed the referendum would help raise wages for workers not covered by the LA measure.

In June, the Los Angeles City Council voted to require a $25 minimum wage for a number of privately owned hospital workers, including nursing assistants, housekeepers, clerks, guards, janitors and other employees who are not supervisors or managers. It is due to come into force on August 13 but could be suspended if referendum efforts gather enough signatures.

The measure supported by SEIU-UHW also included private dialysis clinics as well as clinics and care facilities that are part of private hospitals. SEIU-UHW argued the measure was necessary to retain workers who have been struggling during the pandemic.

“I was working 16-hour shifts just to make ends meet,” Yolanda Ramirez, a Cedars-Sinai Medical Center hospitality worker, said at a rally in July outside the offices of the Hospital Assn. from Southern California. Ramirez said the pinch of inflation is forcing her to shop less groceries. “I cut back in so many ways so I could pay the bills. A minimum wage of $25 would change so much for me and my family.”

“Now these rich CEOs want to take that away from us,” Ramirez said. Since the hospital groups launched their campaign against the wage measure, the union has placed ads, sent out mailings and hired banner tow planes to fly around Los Angeles urging people not to sign their petitions.

The union also sends its members and staff to places where signature collectors work for the referendum petition “to let the public know that they have the opportunity to withdraw their signatures,” said SEIU-UHW spokeswoman Renée Saldaña.

Saldaña said the union turned over dozens of resignation forms from LA residents to the city clerk.

Hospital groups argue the measure would jeopardize facilities that depend heavily on government revenue and affect access to health services for vulnerable people. One of the hospitals the city has sued over the measure is Barlow Respiratory Hospital, which said in the lawsuit that it “could very well cease to exist” if it required increasing wages to $25 an hour .

The lawsuit, filed by hospital groups, also alleges that the LA measure improperly singled out only some healthcare facilities for wage increases.

“It locks out workers in 90% of the health care facilities in the city of Los Angeles for no apparent reason,” said Hospital Assn. Southern California President and Chief Executive George W. Greene said in a statement.

The LA measure does not apply to public hospitals and a number of clinics not affiliated with privately owned hospitals, among other healthcare facilities. Union officials have argued that the city cannot legally set wages for county and state employees; They are pursuing a state law to increase wages to at least $25 an hour for workers at federally qualified health centers.

SEIU-UHW has also been pursuing action on the $25 minimum wage for workers in privately owned hospitals in other Los Angeles County cities.

Long Beach City Council members recently endorsed such a measure, following in the footsteps of the cities of LA, Downey and Monterey Park. In Duarte and Inglewood, wage measures go to the vote for voters to decide.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-04/health-workers-union-complains-wage-increase Union alleges Angelenos being misled to block wage increase

Alley Einstein

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