The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday, April 4, to require that all contracted security, janitorial, environmental and food service workers at county-run hospitals be provided with 100% employer-paid health care benefits.
The requirement will apply to contract employees who work at least 30 hours per week at hospitals operated by the county Department of Health Services.
Board of Supervisors Chair Janice Hahn, who introduced the motion with Supervisor Hilda Solis, said the board had been working toward such a requirement for years. She noted in a statement after the meeting that while the county previously required contracted workers to be paid a living wage, it did not require contractors to provide the workers with health care.
“These workers keep our hospitals clean and keep our doctors, nurses, and patients fed,” Hahn said. “But they cannot afford to go to the doctor because we don’t require that their employers provide them the health insurance they need. This isn’t right. The county shouldn’t be cutting costs on the backs of these workers.”
The motion approved by the board specifies that workers who are provided with the fully paid benefits must not have their wages reduced as a result. It also requires contractors to abide by a “labor peace agreement,” preventing them from interfering with union organizing, while workers must not engage in work stoppages. Solis spoke appreciatively of the efforts of such workers — about 2,000 at county-run hospitals — during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said “this was when these people literally laid their lives on the line … while they were having a hard time feeding their families.” She also spoke admiringly of the diversity of the work force, which includes many “people of color,” adding that providing health benefits will “bring many of them peace of mind.”
Supervisor Holly Mitchell said she generally approved of the measure, but expressed concern about its long-term financial impact on the county, cautioning that the county faces an uncertain budgetary future, including a possible billion-dollar shortfall from liability settlements. “Factors like that make it hard for me to sleep at night,” she said.
Solis said there might be some net savings to the county, since the newly medically benefited workers would cease to be a fiscal burden on indigent county emergency medical services.