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Re:Work Institute for Worker Justice

Workers as Health Monitors in LA County

By: Tia Koonse, Ken Jacobs, and Jennifer Ray

A new report from the UCLA Labor Center, a unit of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, in partnership with the UC Berkeley Labor Center ,Workers as Health Monitors: An Assessment of LA County’s Workplace Public Health Council Proposal, analyzes an innovative LA County proposal to recruit frontline workers in monitoring and protecting against COVID-19.

The brief details the economic losses caused by COVID-19 in LA County, and the gains promised by better compliance and growing consumer confidence that participation in the economy is safe.

Among other findings, the study finds:

  • LA County’s proposed public health councils at workplaces offer a cost-effective strategy to combat the spread of COVID-19. These councils promise increased compliance with the County Health Order and a boost in public confidence.
  • Public health councils could provide critical functions such as an avenue for workers to identify risks, raise them with management, and follow up on compliance, with some protection from retaliation.
  • Workers who feel empowered to identify and address health order violations are essential to slowing the transmission of COVID-19.
  • The benefits of such a proposal would come at a minimal cost compared to the potential gain to public health and the economy.

Report authors estimate the cost of the county’s proposed measure to create worker public health councils trained by certified worker organizations to be $1.1 million to the county and an average of 0.1 percent of operating costs for employers. In return, the effort promises increased compliance with the County Health Order, corresponding reduction in COVID-19 transmission rates, increased consumer confidence and economic activity, fewer days with firms not operating due to the spread of COVID-19, and increased city tax revenues. 

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