With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center has seen a sharp increase in the number of uninsured patients visiting their facilities. These folks, who formerly were uninsured but now, thanks to the ACA have insurance and are finally seeing a doctor. A whopping 40 percent increase in patient visits to the nonprofit health center has challenged everyone from receptionists to medical assistants to benefits counselors and outreach workers to do more work while maintaining excellent service.
So in a rare move in today’s economic climate, St. John’s Chief Executive Jim Mangia, noting that the increased amount of work lead to greater compensation for his employees, has raised their salaries from $12 to $15 an hour, placing the nonprofit squarely in the forefront of the local and national battle to raise the minimum wage.
“The cost for these raises to St. John’s will be significant,” said Mangia. “But we felt strongly as a social justice and health care organization that it was our obligation to raise the living standard for healthcare workers locally and nationwide. We are standing up and throwing down for the $15 wage.”
The announcement, made at a news conference with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price and Bob Schoonover, president SEIU 721, pushes forward the momentum toward raising the minimum wage just as the Los Angeles City Council considers steps that would require large hotels to pay workers a living wage of $15.37 an hour.
“This commitment to provide a living wage proves that when employers and employees work together, the community is lifted. St. John’s is an employer that is leading by example – it is possible to deliver quality healthcare and also provide quality jobs,” said the Supervisor, who represents the district where many of St. John’s centers and clinics are located. “Economic health is tied to physical and mental wellbeing. This wage ensures that the workers who provide care to people that are ill, can provide that care with dignity.”
Indeed, Fabrizzio Perez, who works at St. John’s S. Mark Taper Foundation Health Center as a patient greeter, said he looks forward to the day when healthcare is affordable and available to all, and when full-time workers no longer live in poverty – having to choose between feeding their families or paying the rent.
“A living wage is transformative,” he said. “We want to live in a society where all boats rise with the tide. Our hope is that St. John’s vision spreads across Los Angeles County, the city, the state and finally the entire nation.”