California should become the first state to offer a special minimum wage to health care workers

By Andrea Flynn and Yvonne Yen Liu

July 7, 2023

Lawmakers in California may finally offer a raise to the state’s woefully underpaid health care workforce. The legislature is debating a bill introduced by state Sen. María Elena Durazo that would raise the minimum wage for a wide range of health care workers to $25 per hour by June 1, 2025.

This would be especially beneficial to Black women, who are disproportionately represented in the health care sector — particularly in the lowest-paying jobs. The passage of the bill would provide a much needed and deserved income boost for employees throughout the health sector: from nurses to janitors and food service workers, and for employees of hospitals, nursing facilities, dialysis centers and other organizations. Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley Labor Center predict the bill would affect 469,000 to 1.5 million workers.

This bill would make a significant impact on the ability of Black women and their families to afford the exorbitant costs of living in one of the country’s most expensive states. Research from The Maven Collective — a progressive think tank we both work for that centers race and gender in its pursuit of economic justice — shows that in Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Francisco, and San Bernardino counties, the health care sector is the second most common field for households headed by Black women. Health care support jobs in the six counties have a median pay of approximately $3,000 per month (before taxes). This is far less than what the costs of covering basic needs are. In San Francisco, for example, our research shows that housing costs more than $3,000 monthly, and child care adds another $3,000. In fact, a family of two adults and two children (one preschooler and one school-age child) would need to earn more than $12,000 per month to keep up with living costs. read more