WeHo Chamber Opposes County Plan to Have Workers Monitor COVID-19 Compliance

A proposal to engages worker in monitoring and protecting against COVID-19 where they work has gotten pushback from the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

The proposal, which will be up for a vote at the L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, was brought forward by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, whose district covers West Hollywood, and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. It would allow workers to report, without fear of retribution, instances where their employer is failing to comply with orders issued by the L.A. County Health Department. It also would allow the creation of “public health councils.” Those councils would be made up of employees at a workplace and would work with other organizations certified by the Health Department to monitor, document, and report any violations of the public health guidelines. The Health Department would designate organizations with expertise in worker outreach and education in individual industries and geographic areas.

The motion before the Board of Supervisors says the measure is especially important  given recent reports of “workers expressing their deep concerns about non- compliance with HOOs (health officer orders) in the workplace and their fear that, if they report violations, not only will the issue not be remedied but they might be subject to retaliation as a result. Unfortunately, as a result, often times violations go unreported, which contributes to an increased risk of the spread of COVID-19.”

The measure doesn’t cite any examples. But one that has gotten a lot of attention is the COVID-19 infection of more than 375 workers at the Los Angeles Apparel factory in Los Angeles.

The Health Department engaged various labor organizations and businesses to discuss the formation of public health councils. In a report to the Board of Supervisors, it listed 18 labor organizations, including several that might be relevant to West Hollywood businesses. They include Unite Here Local 11, the hotel and restaurant workers union, and the Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents workers in the fast food, higher education and public sectors.

In an email message to its members, the West Hollywood Chamber said the Board of Supervisors is “looking for additional ways to add new burdens to small businesses.”

In a reference to the outside organizations with which the workers would be aligned, the Chamber said that “this unidentified ‘third party organization’ would visit your business to determine what violations, if any, exist. The ‘third party organizations’ will also report perceived violations to the Department of Public Health – without specification if the business will have a chance to defend or implement changes without penalty.”

“The Board of Supervisors has not addressed employee privacy rights or state and federal employee relations procedures and would be improperly empowering the certifiedtThird parties to conduct (directly or through their guidance and oversight of the Health Councils) unfettered searches of employer records and information,” said the Chamber’s statement. “At a time when businesses are cash strapped and struggling, now is not the time to add burdensome and convoluted programs that will further hinder an employer’s ability to meet demands, get back on their feet, and adequately serve their employees and customers. “

“We urge you to let the county Board of Supervisors know you OPPOSE this concept and support other means to monitor compliance.”

The Health Department, in its report to the Board of Supervisors, noted that some of the business owners it consulted expressed similar concerns about the public health council concept. However, the idea was praised in a new report by researchers at the UC Berkeley and UCLA Labor Centers.

“Workplaces are a major driver of the spread of COVID-19,” said Jennifer Ray, graduate student researcher at the UCLA Labor Center and a co-author of the report. “Data confirms that work-related transmission plays a substantial role in the spread of the coronavirus. We see this in Los Angeles, where outbreaks among essential workers at major companies like meatpacking in Vernon, grocery distribution and sale in Compton and Hollywood, and garment manufacturing in South L.A. have resulted in community spread –- particularly in communities of color.”

“Research shows that when workers are empowered to speak up it leads to safer conditions on the job,” said Ken Jacobs, director of the UC Berkeley Labor Center and also a co-author of the report. “Workers have deep knowledge of the workplace and are best positioned to identify threats to themselves and the public, as well as solutions. Frontline workers are less likely to speak up if they fear retaliation or don’t believe they will be listened to.”

The report details the economic losses caused by COVID-19 in LA County, and projects gains in business if customers are confident that businesses are safe.

“Workers are afraid to go to work if they don’t have control over their risk of contraction, and the public is afraid to shop, dine out, or travel if they believe noncompliance is widespread,” said Tia Koonse, legal and policy research manager at the UCLA Labor Center and a co-author of the report. She said better compliance with public health orders would likely increase consumer confidence in businesses that they have avoided.

“Nearly every industry reports dramatic reductions in year-over-year employment or sales – restaurants reported an 85% decline in bookings, key retail sectors are down more than 50% in sales, and hotels have laid off 240,000 and are at a fraction of last year’s occupancy,” she said.

“Consumer confidence is key to jump starting the economy, and consumers will only trust that it’s safe if they know workplaces are complying with health orders,” Jacobs concluded.

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Jay
Jay
23 days ago

To my mind there is s a false dichotomy being drawn here, similar to the save businesses or save lives one, which economists have convincingly disproven. Everyone benefits when businesses consistently enforce stringent, science driven, public health guidelines, including businesses themselves. Employees and customers are less likely to get infected and community spread is reduced. If I am a business that is following mandated protocols I want others to be held accountable to do the same. Anonymous, coordinated tip lines, at all levels of government, are the best way to achieve adherence with minimal fear of employer retaliation. Investigation and… Read more »

Blueeyedboy
Blueeyedboy
23 days ago
Reply to  Jay

I guess I don’t disagree with you, Jay, but I would caution that science has, in recent years, become highly politicized, so let me provide this addendum. The insertion of politics in science has made me dubious about a lot of claims made that are accepted as pure science when they are not. When a desired end for some agendized group or a politician is made possible by some research study either by favor, agreement of that desired end, or by power and money, we, the public, are often fed garbage or misleading information presented as pure science, and it… Read more »

Jay
Jay
22 days ago
Reply to  Blueeyedboy

Blueeyedboy I appreciate the politeness of your tone- a commodity in rarer supply today than I would prefer! I do agree that motives are not always pristine- witness many Yelp and Amazon reviews. That being said, I trust the departments being reported to to be able to differentiate between legitimate concerns and spurious ones, and to distinguish between science and unsupported conjecture. When I have called Code Enforcement I have been very specific with details and have invited them to call me as needed. Eight employees recently died from Covid-19 at just one Foster Farms processing facility. Our current measures… Read more »

Blueeyedboy
Blueeyedboy
22 days ago
Reply to  Jay

Civil discourse is indeed a rare commodity and I, too, appreciate yours. I’m not quite as confident as you that life-altering verdicts on businesses will be made based on sound science because I see people in very high positions now who are, in my opinion, shockingly uninformed. Of course it is more likely they are choosing to go with the narrative that best suits their agenda, but that’s another discussion.

Thanks again, Jay.

Blueeyedboy
Blueeyedboy
25 days ago

“Never let a crisis go to waste” when there is an opportunity to expand the power of government! With all the vagaries of what is safe and what is unsafe there are so many interpretations of what is acceptable behavior that enforcement would be chaotic, and the default position would be to defer to the most hypersensitive. Sheila Kuehl is well known for her efforts to expand the power of government to the extreme, with herself overseeing that power, so I don’t want to give her an inch. Setting a precedent like this would expand in ways we can’t even… Read more »

WepyrrHo
WepyrrHo
23 days ago
Reply to  Blueeyedboy

There are no vagaries. Short of staying alone in one’s home there is nothing 100% safe, but wearing masks when social distancing cannot be observed dramatically reduces rates of transmission (confirmed in multiple studies). Any vagaries are purely from people wishing to distort facts.

Whether there is some god given or constitutional right to not have government dictate what one wears is a separate issue. I’m sure many nudists would be thrilled to jump on board with an effort to void governments’ ability to require articles of clothing.

Shawn
Shawn
25 days ago

Aren’t these the same unions that try to extort and blackmail businesses to support unionization of their employees. Haven’t they mounted ridiculous petitions and initiatives against hotel projects and marijuana stores to try to get them to accept unions.

I can understand why the chamber would be opposed to these groups coming in and having a say in this process.

Sociopaths R Scary
Sociopaths R Scary
25 days ago

Wow. Just wow. The Chamber beats the “money above all else” drum again, trying to drown out sane, intelligent people’s concerns about safety. If safety gets in the way of their Busine$$ God, they bulldoze everyone in the way, I guess. How did the culture in WeHo get so horrible?

Erik Jon Schmidt
Erik Jon Schmidt
25 days ago

The reality is that most people don’t know what a Chamber of Commerce is. it is not part of the City Government. It is not a public service organization. It is not there to protect consumers or any part of the public sector. It is a “private club”. Members pay dues. Those dues are used to promote and protect business. Period! The bottom line is always profit. In most cities, they do not have as much influence with City Leadership as they do in West Hollywood. In WEHO, The City Council seems to be puppets for the COC. It’s been… Read more »

Jimmy Palmieri
Jimmy Palmieri
25 days ago

Why in the hell would the chamber be against keeping west hollywood alive? Sometimes I think the chamber oversteps its need. If up to them we would have scooters speeding on the sidewalk, non compliance of covid protocols un-reportable etc. Step back and look what’s happening before you release these “statements”!

Greg
Greg
25 days ago
Reply to  Jimmy Palmieri

the catcall of people who do not have a business and want to challenge the chamber’s point of view for their knowledge about how difficult a policy is to implement or manage.

Jimmy Palmieri
Jimmy Palmieri
24 days ago
Reply to  Greg

i sometimes think the chamber absolutely DOES NOT have residents in mind at all. A city is made up of business AND resident. At this time, in an unprecedented pandemic, the chamber SHOULD NOT BE making statements about anything that may help public health. I believe we have Trump for that.

TomSmart
TomSmart
25 days ago

If businesses do the right thing to protect their staff, the Chamber and WEHO employers have nothing to worry about, so why the opposition? Your staff keeps you in business, so keep them safe.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
25 days ago
Reply to  TomSmart

Amen.

Jimmy Palmieri
Jimmy Palmieri
24 days ago
Reply to  TomSmart

PREACH!

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