A broad coalition of labor unions representing tens of thousands of workers has demanded that elected leaders in Los Angeles County impose a more restrictive lockdown next month that would be similar to what the area’s ten million residents experienced last spring.
On Wednesday, the alliance launched an online petition that included a letter to the powerful L.A. County Board of Supervisors “calling for an urgent circuit breaker to suppress the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.”
The mitigation strategy generally means more stringent, time-limited measures that would, in theory, act as a “circuit breaker” to interrupt a surge in coronavirus infections.
In this case, the coalition wants “a period of meaningful stay-at-home orders that are strict enough to significantly slow transmission for the first four weeks of January.” The group has also asked for a curfew, the closure of all nonessential businesses, along with new fiscal policies that would allow companies to close and help workers get by.
Breaking: LA Coalition Demands ‘Circuit Breaker’ to urgently suppress the spread of COVID-19 to save lives and support workers.
— United Teachers Los Angeles (@UTLAnow) December 17, 2020
The coalition referenced “record-breaking infection levels, soaring hospitalization rates, full ICUs, and the looming wave of deaths that is soon to follow.”
The Los Angeles Times reports, “When the county board meets Tuesday, this push will represent a political counter to pressure from businesses and allied groups,” including some that have successfully challenged the county’s ban on outdoor restaurant dining in court.
According to The Times, the lead organizer of the drive is United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), a union representing more than 33,000 educators, counselors, and librarians working in the second-largest public school system in the nation. Last week, a full campus shutdown began throughout the district.
“Let’s be clear – we are not in a real lockdown,” said UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz. “While some people are able to stay home to work, the working-class and poor people of L.A. have to choose between risking their lives or putting food on the table for their families.”
Myart-Cruz, a Black Lives Matter member who was elected to lead UTLA earlier this year, called on elected officials to secure funding from the state and the federal government to provide “a financial survival package for workers.”
“Without that, it’s clear that elected leaders expect workers to risk their lives in order to pay rent,” she said.
— Reclaim Our Schools LA (@ReclaimLASchls) December 18, 2020
The coalition also asked county lawmakers to provide additional “necessary safety nets” for those impacted by their proposals. They recommended suspending mortgage and rent payments, a local moratorium on evictions, and free food for those under quarantine. Other suggestions include “ongoing direct payments and subsidies for individuals and small businesses,” and “debt and loan forgiveness so that those payments are spent to reinvigorate local economies rather than to big banks.”
The letter continues:
Due to uncontrolled viral spread, children in Los Angeles are facing the prospect of an entire school year spent without much-needed in-person instruction. Instead, we saw cardrooms, bars, brewpubs, in-person dining, mini-golf, hair salons, and non-essential retail allowed to reopen in LA County, even as students and educators struggled together to navigate crisis distance learning.
Our teachers want to be in classrooms with their students, and our students need to be in classrooms with their teachers and friends – but only when it is safe to return, in any way that does not further exacerbate the racial and economic inequities of this pandemic.
As businesses linked to Trump received millions in coronavirus relief meant for small businesses, LA residents had to make do with a one-time payment of $1,200. LA County is the largest county by output, contributing over $710 billion GDP to the U.S. economy – LA County leaders should demand that in this time of crisis, the people and businesses that power this country’s economic engine should be supported instead of sacrificed to the pandemic.
In an interview with FOX 11 News, Myart-Cruz said she considered the coalition’s demands “a drastic step.”
“I feel like L.A. County has not done enough to suppress the virus,” she said.
The UTLA-led coalition includes the AF3IRM; AFSCME Local 3299; Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE); California Nurses Association (CAN); Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE); National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW); Reclaim Our Schools Los Angeles (ROSLA); Southeast Asian Community Alliance (SEACA); Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE); Students Deserve; UFCW Local 770; Unite Here Local 11; and United Auto Workers Local 2865.
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