Health Care Workers, Lawmakers Announce Legislation to Require Bonuses to Recognize and Retain Caregivers on the Frontlines of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Health Care Workers, Lawmakers Announce Legislation to Require Bonuses to Recognize and Retain Caregivers on the Frontlines of the COVID-19 Pandemic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:      
March 9, 2021

CONTACT:
Renée Saldaña
rsaldana@seiu-uhw.org

Oakland, Calif. – As California enters its second year of the coronavirus pandemic, frontline caregivers joined state lawmakers to introduce legislation to recognize health care workers for their efforts and sacrifices and to provide support to retain workers in their professions. The author of Health Care Worker Recognition and Retention Act (AB 650), Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), spoke as did the bill’s co-author, Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) about the importance of the bill.

“I stand in support of our healthcare workers who have been on the frontlines of this pandemic, day in, day out, to go into combat against this horrific virus,” said Assemblymember Muratsuchi.  “These frontline healthcare heroes deserve combat pay for going into dangerous workplaces to take care of us and to save lives.”

Throughout the pandemic, health care workers have faced dangerous and grueling working conditions. Caregivers have experienced physical fatigue and emotional trauma — and many contracted COVID-19, exposed their loved ones to infection, and even died. A survey from Morning Consult found that since the start of the pandemic, 26% of health care workers have considered leaving their job.

“During this pandemic, California’s health care workers faced what we’d most feared, dealing with dangerous working conditions such as not enough masks for all staff, being asked to re-use masks or other PPE, and long, arduous shifts with few or no breaks,” said Yudis Cruz, a certified nursing assistant at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. “A year of battling this deadly virus has taken a drastic toll on the physical and mental wellbeing of health care workers. We fully support Assemblymembers Muratsuchi and Rodriguez who recognize the sacrifices we have made.”

The Health Care Worker Recognition and Retention Act (AB 650) is sponsored by SEIU California and aims to recognize the incredible efforts and sacrifices health care workers have made, and to improve the retention of the health care workforce, especially in light of the pre-pandemic shortage of workers needed to meet California’s growing health care demands. It requires certain health care employers with more than 100 employees to pay bonuses to all non-executive employees who worked during the pandemic. The bonuses would be paid in 2022 after the law goes into effect.

AB 650 would apply to all non-executive employees of private health care companies in California who work during the COVID-19 pandemic and stay in the health care industry. It would cover workers at hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, medical groups, and other private-sector health care providers, as well as district hospitals.

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SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is one of the largest unions of hospital workers in the United States, with more than 100,000 members.