LOS ANGELES: Home Health Workers Vote To Unionize
In what is being hailed as a landmark victory for organized labor, 74,000 home health care workers in Los Angeles County have voted overwhelmingly to join the Service Employees International Union, a move likely to reverberate through the health and service sectors. With the vote's ten-to-one margin, the SEIU is expected to quickly initiate negotiations with the Los Angeles County board that oversees home health care in an attempt to raise workers' wages from the minimum hourly wage of $5.75 to $7 (Cleeland, Los Angeles Times, 2/26). The New York Times reports in that addition to higher wages, many home health workers said they voted for the union because they wanted health insurance and paid vacations. Los Angeles County officials were optimistic that higher wages and better benefits would stabilize the high turnover rate in the home care industry, improving care for patients and perhaps even helping to keep more seniors and disabled people out of nursing homes. Currently home care workers in Los Angeles earn $5.75 an hour. Home care workers in San Francisco and Santa Clara County saw their hourly wage go from $5.75 to $7 after they unionized. Union officials said they would ask the state Legislature and Gov. Gray Davis to budget an additional $60 million for home care so that Los Angeles workers could get a $1-per-hour raise (Greenhouse, 2/26).
Yesterday's election may also provide momentum for attempts to unionize the health care industry, the Chicago Tribune reports. SEIU's Steve Trossman said, "I think everyone knows that California is often a bellwether state. This is something we expect to see elsewhere (Schodolski, 2/26). Click here for NPR's "All Things Considered" coverage (RealAudio required).