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Health Care Network Signs Living Wage Pact with Union

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Who says debating the need for a living wage is like talking to a brick wall? The recent experience of one health care provider and its employees shows how respectful and reasonable such discussions can be.

Tomorrow (Thursday, March 13), a pivotal agreement between labor and management will be announced that offers hope for the living wage movement. St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, a nonprofit network of community health centers, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 721 will unveil a new collective bargaining agreement that will result in the centers’ front-line health care employees receiving a $15 hourly living wage. The contract was unanimously ratified by rank and file members March 3.

St. John’s provides health services at 10 centers and clinics throughout Central and South Los Angeles. Its president and CEO, Jim Mangia, issued a statement that said, in part, “We put forward the proposal for a living wage because we want our health centers to be the best places to give and to receive care. St. John’s is ready to provide quality care to the tens of thousands of newly insured patients under the Affordable Care Act because of the dedication of our front-line workforce. Together, we’re caring for downtown, South Los Angeles and Compton.”

The agreement between St. John’s and its workers could well serve as a template for other employers at the very moment the Los Angeles City Council has begun to consider requiring the city’s large hotels to provide a $15.37 hourly living wage to their employees.

“The contract between St. John’s and SEIU 721 members sends a very simple and powerful message. It’s important to pay all working Americans wages that allow them to get ahead, not just get by,” said Fabrizzio Perez, a St. John’s employee who was raised in South L.A. and is a member of SEIU 721.

Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, added: “The agreement between St. John’s and SEIU 721 is a ray of hope for Los Angeles, one of the leading low-wage capitals of our nation.”

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