Members of El Camino Hospital's workers' union are moving forward on their plan to seek a legislative cap on executive pay.
United Healthcare Workers West, a branch of the SEIU, sent signature collectors out into Mountain View yesterday, Feb. 8, with the aim of gathering support for a ballot initiative that would put a legal limit on how much El Camino could pay its top administrators.
The initiative proposes that no executive at the hospital or within the hospital district could be paid more than twice the salary of California's governor. Gov. Jerry Brown current salary is $173,987 -- a reduction in the allowed governor's salary from 2007, which was $212,179.
Tomi Ryba, the El Camino Hospital's recently hired CEO is being paid $695,000 annually -- nearly double what she would be allowed to make if the proposed legislation were to go into effect today.
After sending signature collectors out into the community, the union held a candle light vigil rally in front of the hospital at 6 p.m. to raise awareness for their cause.
According to Carlyn Foster, a representative with the SEIU-UHW, the union has collected about 5,100 signatures to date. They need 9,100 in order to get their initiative on the November 2012 ballot.
Foster said the union's goal is collect 14,000 signatures and complete all the necessary paperwork by March 1.
Plans for the ballot initiative were first announced in October 2011. In explaining the impetus for the initiative, officials with the SEIU-UHW have cited cuts to worker benefits -- including the elimination of the hospital's free healthcare plan and reductions to overtime pay -- along with the news of Ryba's salary, which union representative Carlyn Foster said is excessive.
However, according to a study conducted by Ron Shinkman, editor-in-chief of the health care industry publication "Payers and Providers, Ryba's salary is less than the average annual income of non-profit hospital CEOs in California. In his 2010 assessment, Shinkman found that the average pay of such executives in the state was $732,000.
Chris Ernst, a spokeswoman with El Camino, defended Ryba's salary in an email.
"El Camino Hospital stands behind the careful and methodic approach taken by our board members to determine executive compensation that is reasonable and well within the bounds of competitive practice in the not-for-profit health care industry," Ernst wrote.