In the long run, state lawmakers purporting to care about coronavirus transparency caved to enterprise pursuits on the expense of employee and shopper security.
The state Senate on Friday gutted Meeting Invoice 654, laws that was initially designed to provide employees — particularly important employees — well timed details about coronavirus outbreaks at their job websites.
The unconscionable act threatens the lives of Californians all through the state.
It ought to be a provided that the state’s Public Well being Division would publicize well timed employee outbreak information throughout a pandemic. Staff want the data to guard themselves and their households. And shoppers deserve entry to data that might inform them whether or not there was a latest outbreak at eating places, retail shops or different companies that individuals frequent.
That was the precise intent of Inland Empire Democrat Elise Reyes in authoring AB 654. However the Legislature bowed to strain from the California Chamber of Commerce and Meeting Republicans. Chamber coverage advocate Robert Moutrie argued that the invoice’s central public reporting requirement amounted to a “blacklist with out profit.” He was additionally involved that the Division of Public Well being would lag in updating its web site.
Neither concern has benefit. We all know this as a result of Oregon and Los Angeles County have already publicized office outbreak information for the reason that starting of the pandemic.
“The sky has not fallen,” mentioned Kevin Riley, the director of the Labor Occupational Security and Well being Program at UCLA. “Companies haven’t needed to shutter their doorways as a result of they’ve had their names on the market.”
In the meantime, employees elsewhere in California shouldn’t have entry to essential data, due to lawmakers who put enterprise pursuits above the security of employees and shoppers.
It was solely due to the efforts of Bay Space Information Group reporter Fiona Kelliher that we all know concerning the 171 coronavirus instances reported at Richmond’s Good day Recent final July, 187 instances at a newly opened Amazon facility in Riverside County’s metropolis of Beaumont in January, and 50 instances at an air-con firm in Vacaville. And that the variety of instances in Amazon services exceeded 1,700 in 5 counties: Contra Costa, Kern, Riverside, San Joaquin and Solano.
California already has a regulation in place, AB 685, that was supposed to supply the wanted transparency. However California counties interpreted the regulation in several methods. A Bay Space Information Group investigation revealed that solely about one-third of California’s native public well being departments offered particulars of outbreaks in response to public data requests. The counties mentioned AB 685’s language was too imprecise. So it’s past troubling that when lawmakers gutted Reyes’ AB 654, they repeated the unique phrasing of AB 685.
Now it will likely be months earlier than the Legislature can take up the problem once more. In the meantime, greater than a yr and a half into the pandemic, employees and shoppers nonetheless is not going to have entry to fundamental data they should shield themselves from a lethal virus.