Advocate Aurora Health Begins New Year by Raising its Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour

Kitchen employees are among those benefiting directly from the minimum wage increase.

UCC-related Advocate Aurora Health, whose health system stretches from northeast Wisconsin to south Chicagoland, has announced that as of Jan. 3, 2021, it increased its minimum wage to $15 an hour. The increase was the culmination of a three-year plan to establish equitable, market-competitive wages for all employees.

Advocate Aurora’s Chief Executive Officer Jim Skogsbergh says the increase “is a critical investment in our team members. We’re committed to ensuring our team members have access to rewarding jobs with comprehensive benefits, competitive wages and an engaging work environment. Not only does this strengthen our workplace, but it will strengthen our marketplace and — most importantly — enhance the quality of life in our communities from Green Bay to Hazel Crest and everywhere in between.”

The wage increase most directly affects food service and custodial workers. But, says Kevin Brady, chief human resource officer, the increase also will have a ripple effect, resulting in better wages for workers already receiving slightly higher pay, including medical assistants, phlebotomists, and certain technicians.

Janitorial staff also directly benefit from the wage increase.

Advocate Aurora Health first sent a memo to employees in 2018, explaining that over three years, the minimum wage would be raised. At the time, starting wages were between $11 and $13 an hour. By mid-2019, minimum wage was raised to $13 an hour. In 2020, it increased again to $14 an hour.

One of the influencing factors for the increase was a finding from the Congressional Budget Office that a national minimum wage increase to $15 by 2025 would boost paychecks for approximately 27 million workers across the country, and lift 1.3 million people out of poverty. A nationwide increase would particularly help persons of color who historically have faced obstacles to wage and health care equity.

According to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, two-thirds of Americans support a raise to $15 an hour, and several states already have passed laws to raise local minimum wages to that level.

But for Advocate Aurora Health, the increase simply is the right thing to do. And the timing couldn’t be better, with the country suffering the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Despite the challenges we are experiencing as a result of COVID-19, we are committed to delivering on this important promise,” says Skogsbergh, “being a leader in advancing minimum wage and continuing to make investments in our team members that position us as a destination employer.”

Brady concurs. “Our purpose is to help people live well and that begins with our own team members,” he wrote to employees. “We know that if our team members feel this is the best place to work, our patients will feel this is the best place to entrust their health and wellness.”

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