California health care workers could get a $25 minimum wage as a key labor union and employers close in on a sweeping deal.
The emerging agreement between SEIU State Council and health care industry players would secure the $25 pay rate and impose a truce on recurring ballot fights over dialysis clinics. The industry agreed to the wage hike in exchange for a moratorium on bills and ballot initiatives targeting dialysis clinics, according to six people with knowledge of the negotiations. Community clinics would potentially be covered in a separate bill.
“We’re encouraged by talks and hopeful we can finalize an agreement soon that will provide dialysis caregivers with additional wage increases while also protecting patients from the ongoing threats at the ballot and in the legislature that put them at risk,” California Dialysis Council spokesperson Jaycob Bytel said in a written statement.
The framework could still fall apart if players balk. Details remain fluid, and it is not clear Gov. Gavin Newsom would sign a bill reflecting the agreement.
But a compromise would cap a multiyear battle over industry wages. SEIU-UHW ramped up the pressure in recent years by pushing a series of local $25 wage ordinances around the state — including in Los Angeles — and sought to cut a deal with hospitals last year in exchange for relief from seismic retrofit requirements.
This year the labor unions backed legislation to boost pay statewide, launching one of this year’s most prominent labor battles. The bill cleared the Senate floor by a single vote and was awaiting an Assembly floor vote as the mid-September end of the legislative session bore down.
Lawmakers may have been motivated to act by a looming ballot fight. It was widely expected that SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan, a prolific backer of ballot initiative politics, would launch a campaign if the bill failed. Regan is already pursuing three measures in the San Diego area, and the Los Angeles City Council has already put an SEIU-UHW-backed measure on the ballot limiting hospital executives’ pay.
The wage fight was also effectively a continuation of SEIU-UHW’s long struggle with the kidney dialysis industry. The union has qualified three separate statewide ballot initiatives to regulate dialysis clinics, contending they are poorly run and endanger patient health, while pursuing legislation.
The industry has defeated all three initiatives but has been forced to spend tens of millions of dollars in the process. Dialysis companies have also ramped up their spending on legislative campaigns and lobbying.