In Battle Against COVID-19, Board of Supervisors Propose Innovative Solution

07/22/2020

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Contact: Christian Castro

Communications Director, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor

(310) 857-9817 | christian@thelafed.org

In Battle Against COVID-19, Board of Supervisors Propose Innovative Solution

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Pass Motion Introducing Public Health Councils in Effort to Stem Pandemic

(Los Angeles, CA) As Los Angeles County sees record-setting numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion earlier today considering the establishment of worker-led public health councils countywide, with the exception of Pasadena and Long Beach, who have their own Public Health Departments.

Introduced by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas, the motion is the first step in a bold new solution to stop the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate any new outbreaks.

“Transmission in the workplace has become a significant factor in the spread of COVID-19,” said L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “When public health guidelines are not rigorously implemented by businesses, it not only puts workers and customers at risk, it puts their families and communities at risk. That’s why we must aggressively monitor compliance in workplaces and empower workers and community organizations to help. Plain and simple, full compliance can mean the difference between life and death.”

“The unsung heroes of our essential workforce are keeping our economy afloat during this unrelenting crisis,” said L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “We must build upon the Department of Public Health’s enforcement resources by enabling workers to monitor, document, and report potential public health violations, especially those tied to the potential spread of COVID-19, in a timely and nimble manner.”

The proposed policy seeks to expand the capacity of the L.A. County Public Health Department by utilizing workers in monitoring and reporting adherence to virus-prevention protocols, preventing potential outbreaks. It also allows the department to certify third-party worker and community based organizations, who will be responsible for assisting public health councils with education, technical assistance.

“We thank the L.A. Board of Supervisors for supporting public health and approving this motion,” said Rob Nothoff, Policy Director at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. “The workplace is foundational when it comes to public health, and workers are in a unique position to be the champions when it comes to stemming the coronavirus. We need all violations to be reported as soon as possible, and we need a framework to expedite this process. Who better to monitor and document public health violations than the workers themselves? When workers are engaged, the public is safer.”

“This is a common sense approach to protect public health and ensure that the economy does re-open in a safe way,” said Linda Delp, Director of UCLA – Labor Occupational Safety & Health Program. “If we all followed public health orders, we’d undoubtedly have curbed the spread.  The science, as well as examples from other countries, prove that we can get ahead of this pandemic.  However, we know that beating this virus will require an all hands on deck solution.  Let’s empower workers to be part of that solution for protecting our public health.”

The Department of Health will now research and report on the feasibility of implementing the policy across the county, which is scheduled to come back on August 4.

 m fortunate to work at a place where we have proper protective equipment, yet it’s still unnerving to walk past the COVID testing tents on site,” said Maya Inigo-Anderson, Mental Health Therapist at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center. “It’s scary to think about contracting a virus and bringing it home to my son for my father who suffers from COPD, yet as a public service worker, I’m proud to do my part. The lives of our communities are at stake. The creation of public health councils can literally mean the difference between life and death.”

“It hurts me just to say this, but after several months of working during a pandemic, we understand so much more about what it takes to keep others safe,” said Christie Sasaki, Front End Supervisor at a Pavilions Grocery Store “We need to listen to those on the frontline and make smart decisions to keep our communities safe. Establishing public health councils in LA County will protect customers, the communities in which the stores are located, and the public from another outbreak.”

“Restaurants and bars are among the most important sites of potential coronavirus transmission, and in certain instances, documented transmission,” said Alexandra Suh, Executive Director of Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA). “Public health guidelines are put in place for a reason, and given how contagious this virus is, we cannot afford to fail at complying with the county’s health orders. We need worker-led public health councils to partner with worker organizations and the L.A. County Department of Public Health to be able to immediately report noncompliance with county health orders, if we are ever going to rebuild some form of our vibrant, vital LA restaurant culture.”

During a recent inspection by the Department of Public Health, nearly half of all businesses were out of compliance with County Health orders, and workers are in a unique position to serve as the eyes and ears of the day-to-day operations.

If passed, the legislation will be the first of its kind and continue the trend of progressive policies introduced by the County of Los Angeles.

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