By: Eye on Inglewood Writer
The California Hospital Association has filed suit against Inglewood over an ordinance which mandates minimum wage for health care workers.
The July 31 complaint was filed by Jones Day on behalf of the CHA and argues that provisions of Inglewood’s health care worker minimum wage ordinance are unconstitutional, as it blocks employers from reducing staff, changing shift schedules or adjusting compensation and benefits.
CHA seeks declaratory relief against Inglewood that certain provisions of its ordinance are invalid and unconstitutional, and it is also seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting enforcement of such provisions.
The ordinance entitles covered health care workers to a minimum wage of $25 per hour, which is a 60% increase over the current state minimum wage of $15.50, according to the CHA.
Additionally, the CHA notes that a recently passed statewide bill, Senate Bill 525, increases the minimum wage for health care workers to $25 an hour by June 1, 2025.
The complaint brings National Labor Relations Act preemption claims, arguing that the ordinance “restricts the actions of healthcare employers in ways that disrupt the carefully crafted balance of power between management and labor.”
“To be sure, the Ordinance does much more than just increase the minimum wage for healthcare workers. It also bars healthcare employers from reducing staffing, altering schedules, or adjusting employee compensation and benefits,” the CHA alleges. “The Ordinance forecloses any option by a Healthcare Worker to opt out of the Ordinance or its protections thereby necessarily interfering with the collective bargaining process.”
The complaint claims that the ordinance forbids various lawful bargaining tools used in collective bargaining with unions, providing that employers cannot fund the increases required by reducing workers’ premium pay rate or shift differentials, reducing vacation, health care, or other nonwage benefits of any health care worker, reducing hours of work, laying off workers, or increasing charges to workers to parking, work-related materials, or equipment.
Additionally, the ordinance “creates a new private cause of action that displaces agreed-upon grievance procedures in collective bargaining agreements, and it prevents healthcare employers from utilizing standard economic weapons of the collective bargaining process, such as lockouts or the hiring of permanent replacements,” the complaint says.
The complaint asserts that the provisions containing these restrictions are preempted by the NLRA, alleging that the ordinance is a “union-promoted private interest boon cloaked in public interest sentiment.”
In May and June, the union filed health care minimum wage and executive compensation initiatives in Chula Vista, La Mesa and San Diego, as well as an executive compensation initiative in Los Angeles that is headed to the ballot in 2024, according to the complaint.
In April, the union sued a CHA hospital in the Superior Court under the ordinance for “reducing the hours of work of covered employees allegedly to fund and/or offset the costs associated with the wage increase required by the Ordinance,” and “laying off certain SEIU-UHW members in alleged retaliation for these members’ participation in the public campaign to pass the Ordinance.”
The CHA alleges that the union admits that the ordinance benefits the union and not the individual workers, “seeking attorneys’ fees on the basis that Centinela Hospital’s ‘disregard for the law has forced [the union] to obtain legal counsel to secure a victory they already achieved at the ballot box in November.’”
The CHA requests a judgment declaring that the ordinance’s Sections 8-152(c)-(d), 8-153, 8-155(d) and 8-156 are void and unenforceable as they are preempted by the NLRA and its implementing regulations and guidance, a permanent injunction enjoining the city from enforcing or taking any action under the ordinance, and attorney fees, costs and interest.
The CHA’s attorney, Matthew J. Silveira, a partner at Jones Day in San Francisco, declined to comment.
A message seeking comment from Inglewood was not immediately returned.