Increasing Wages Will Lead to Healthier Work and Healthier Workers

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 29, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The Healthy Work Campaign applauds California for leading the way in 2023 to ensure fair, living wages for healthcare and fast-food workers. Signed into law in September and October 2023 by Governor Newsom, the two new statutes will raise the minimum wage to $25/hour for all healthcare workers and $20/hour for fast-food workers as of April 2024.

California has recognized that, due to wage stagnation and inflation, the living standard of low-income workers has been in decline for many years. “Fair wages and decent working conditions are essential to providing healthy workplaces that help reduce or prevent illnesses, including depression and cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Marnie Dobson, Director of the Healthy Work Campaign.

In fact, economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton have found that life expectancy is falling for Americans without a 4 year-college-degree, due to low wages, economic injustice and “deaths of despair”—suicide, opioid overdose, and alcoholic liver disease. Also, chronic diseases in people without a bachelor’s degree have increased considerably as well and may account for the widening life expectancy gap. More heart disease in younger working populations may also be linked to economic injustice, income inequality and poor working conditions, all of which have been linked to CVD mortality.

The Healthy Work Campaign has reported previously about the contribution of poor working conditions (including low wages) to the health of workers, especially those without a 4-year college degree, which includes fast-food workers and some healthcare support workers.

Union strikes have made headlines nationally this year, highlighting how working people are fighting to increase wages and improve working conditions. “These struggles have resulted in significant wage increases for UPS-Teamster delivery drivers, Kaiser healthcare workers, Big Three auto workers, actors, and writers all winning strong wage increases in the last 6 months,” notes Dr. Peter Schnall, Director of the nonprofit Center for Social Epidemiology and Co-Director of the Healthy Work Campaign.

“The new California laws recognize that wages have not kept pace with inflation, and they will mean less workplace stressors, including less effort-reward imbalance (a major workplace stressor) as well as workers having a greater “say” in determining wages and working conditions, which is very health protective,” says Dr. Marnie Dobson.

The standard of living should improve for California fast food and healthcare support workers, many of whom are black and brown women. The Healthy Work Campaign urges other states to follow California’s lead, to improve economic justice and the health of low-income workers throughout the U.S.

Zach Schnall

SOURCE The Healthy Work Campaign