L.A. County home care work­ers to get pay raise

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Abby Sewell abby.sewell@latimes.com

Los An­ge­les County su­per­vi­sors voted Tues­day to raise the wage of about 140,000 home healthcare work­ers paid through a state pro­gram par­tially funded by the county.

Their pay will go from $9.65 an hour to $11.18 over the next year and a half.

It was the first ma­jor de­ci­sion on wages made since a new board ma­jor­ity took of­fice in De­cem­ber. It also marked the first time the board had sus­pended a fis­cal rule put in place by the out­go­ing board last year, re­quir­ing a four-fifths su­per­ma­jor­ity on votes to in­crease worker pay and ben­e­fits.

The vote on pay for the work­ers, who care for sick, el­derly and dis­abled county res­i­dents, could fore­shadow the out­come of a pend­ing pro­posal by Su­per­vi­sor Sheila Kuehl to fol­low the city of Los An­ge­les’ lead and raise the min­i­mum wage for county work­ers and those in un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas from $9 to $15 by 2020.

Su­per­vi­sor Mark Ri­d­leyThomas said he also plans to pro­pose in­creas­ing the “liv­ing wage” paid to county con­trac­tors.

“I do be­lieve that there is a readi­ness to ad­dress in­come in­equal­ity in the county of Los An­ge­les,” he said.

The home care work­ers, who would not have been cov­ered by a county min­i­mum wage hike, have packed Board of Su­per­vi­sors meet­ings over the last sev­eral weeks to push for a raise to $15 an hour. They had urged county of­fi­cials to pass a plan be­fore July 1, when the state will take over re­spon­si­bil­ity for bar­gain­ing on in-home work­ers’ con­tracts.

The pro­posal by Ri­d­leyThomas and Su­per­vi­sor Hilda So­lis ap­proved Tues­day will in­crease the work­ers’ pay to only $11.18, but will do so on a faster timeline than the pro­posed in­creases in the min­i­mum wage.

Ri­d­ley-Thomas and So­lis said their in­tent was to put the home care work­ers on a “path to $15.”

The state, which splits the cost of the home care work­ers’ pay with the county, will not con­trib­ute money to­ward any wages above $11.18 un­less the Leg­is­la­ture acts to lift a cur­rent salary ceil­ing. County bud­get of­fi­cials said ear­lier this month that a raise to $15.25 an hour for the work­ers would have cost county taxpayers an ad­di­tional $374.1 mil­lion an­nu­ally by 2017-18.

The in­crease to $11.18 an hour is es­ti­mated to cost the county an ad­di­tional $11.9 mil­lion in the 2015-16 fis­cal year and an ad­di­tional $30.6 mil­lion in 2016-17.

The work­ers will re­ceive the 16% to­tal pay in­crease in sev­eral phases. The work­ers will first get an in­crease to $10 an hour when the state min­i­mum wage in­creases in Jan­uary; the wage will then jump to $11 in Fe­bru­ary and to $11.18 in Fe­bru­ary 2017.

Laphonza But­ler, pres­i­dent of SEIU ULTCW, the United Long Term Care Work­ers union, said, “It’s a proud day for Los An­ge­les home care work­ers. They’ve been be­hind for so long.”

Su­per­vi­sor Don Kn­abe of­fered an al­ter­na­tive un­der which the home care work­ers’ wages would fol­low the in­creases in the min­i­mum wage un­til they hit $11.18. Kn­abe said the ap­proach would be “more fis­cally pru­dent than rais­ing wages on a more ag­gres­sive ba­sis.”

That pro­posal failed, with Su­per­vi­sor Michael D. Antonovich vot­ing for it and the other three op­pos­ing it.

Kn­abe said he thought sus­pend­ing the fis­cal pol­icy that re­quired a su­per­ma­jor­ity vote for salary in­creases would send the wrong mes­sage to credit rat­ing agen­cies that mon­i­tor the county’s fis­cal health.

“I re­ally think it’s a bad prece­dent,” he said. “This is an is­sue we worked hard on to make sure we have the proper credit rat­ings.”

Anne Cu­sack Los An­ge­les Times

AMONG THOSE at­tend­ing an L.A. su­per­vi­sors meet­ing last week about higher wages for home care work­ers are El­iz­a­beth Arvizu and son Juan Pablo Lopez.

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