L.A. County May Support Worker Councils to Monitor COVID-19 Compliance


LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is scheduled today to consider a proposal to facilitate worker-led “health councils'' to monitor business compliance with public health orders.

Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas co-authored a motion recommending that the county reach out to labor leaders and business representatives and quickly come up with effective ways to monitor compliance with mandates to wear facial coverings, install protective shields and disinfect workplaces.

“Workplace and community transmission have been significant factors contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in communities across the region,'' the motion reads in part. “While many businesses have been diligent in their efforts to comply with public health requirements, many others have not. This creates a public health risk not only for the businesses' employees and customers but for the communities in which the businesses are located and in which their customers and employees live.''

Kuehl and Ridley-Thomas suggested that workers could be certified to monitor violations and report them to public health investigators for follow-up. While workers could serve as the county's eyes and ears in a wide range of enterprises, they are likely to be reluctant to come forward without protection.

“Employees must be allowed to form public health councils without retaliation by their employer,'' according to the motion.

Department of Public Health employees are already overwhelmed with trying to enforce public health orders designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Two weeks ago, the board asked its lawyers to consider whether county workers who work for other departments could be assigned to assess fines against out-of-compliance businesses.

Based on the motion as drafted, the county would prioritize certifications for councils in the garment, hospitality, janitorial and food service industries.

More than 300 people tested positive for COVID-19 at Los Angeles Apparel, a South Los Angeles garment manufacturer that pivoted to sewing masks when the pandemic struck. Workplace outbreaks at a meatpacking plant in Vernon and many local grocery stores have also heightened concerns about workplace safety.

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, has organized a car caravan of health care, grocery, restaurant and warehouse workers in support of the motion. Leaders plan to hold a news conference this morning outside the downtown Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, although the board is scheduled to meet by teleconference.


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