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Board looks to assist County hospital workers


Assuring paid health care premiums

In closing a loophole that threatened to leave some contract workers at Los Angeles County-run hospitals without fully paid health care premiums, the Board of Supervisors this week adopted a motion requiring existing contractors to provide such coverage for most workers by March 31.

In April, the board approved a motion requiring contractors providing services such as security, food service and janitorial work at hospitals run by the county Department of Health Services to provide 100% employer-paid health care for employees who work 30 hours or more per week. The requirement was to be effective by Dec. 31.

According to a motion introduced by Supervisors Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis, DHS officials are in the process of revising their contract solicitations to include the requirement in new contracts, however, the original motion failed to include a provision for existing contracts to be amended with the health care provision.

“Until that happens, front-line workers that are contracted to provide valuable services in DHS facilities are not guaranteed to have access to 100% employer-paid health care,” according to the motion.

The loophole created consternation among the workers, and their union–SEIU-United Service Workers West–even threatened a strike if the situation wasn’t resolved.

On Tuesday, the board resolved it, directing county staff to require all “established, existing, renewed and extended” contracts for such services to require the fully paid health care premiums, effective no later than March 31.

“Essential hospital workers who work alongside doctors, nurses, and staff made it possible for our county’s public hospital system to function before, during, and following the pandemic even while being denied affordable health care,” SEIU-USWW President David Huerta said in a statement. “While more must be done to ensure all contracted county workers have quality health care, we thank the supervisors for closing the loophole in the previously approved motion to correct this injustice.”

Hahn said in a statement, “The county shouldn’t be cutting costs on the backs of our hospital workers. If we are going to continue contracting out for these important jobs, we must at least ensure these are jobs with dignity where employers provide health care benefits in addition to fair pay. I am grateful we were able to get these workers the health care benefits they need and deserve without a painful and avoidable strike.”