A coalition of Los Angeles-area unions are calling Thursday for a sweeping four-week countywide lockdown next month to bring the surge of COVID-19 cases and deaths under control.
“Healthcare workers throughout Los Angeles are reaching their breaking point. They are understaffed, overworked and inundated with patients fighting for their lives,” Sal Rosselli, president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, said in a statement. “COVID-19 cannot be allowed to spread following the December holidays the way it spread after Thanksgiving. We all have to work together to keep this from getting worse, and that starts with people having the financial security to stay home.”
The coalition of more than a dozen health-care, labor and community groups sent a letter to the county Board of Supervisors on Wednesday asking for the implementation of a “circuit breaker,” a strict four-week lockdown that would include curfews and the forced closure of all nonessential businesses.
In their letter, the group called for the lockdown to include “safety nets” for businesses and workers affected by the closures, including suspension of mortgage/rent payments, free meals, direct payments to workers to subsidize lost wages and worker-retention policies for people laid off during the crisis.
“We urge you to immediately call for state and federal funds to allow LA county to have a true lockdown, one that prioritizes the lives of everyone — particularly essential workers and working families — over comfort and convenience,” according to the group’s letter.
Among the unions and groups signing onto the letter were United Teachers Los Angeles, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, AFSCME Local 3299, California Nurses Association, Reclaim Our Schools Los Angeles, UNITE HERE Local 11, Students Deserve and Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. Organizers said the groups represent tens of thousands of workers.
The coalition argued that essential workers, low-income and ethnic communities are disproportionately being impacted by the pandemic. Organizers said a true lockdown is the only way to get a handle on the rapid spread of the virus.
“We have reached a crossroads where only decisive measures can prevent our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed,” said Ninez Ponce, a professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “A time-limited `circuit breaker’ can reverse the tide of the epidemic, bring the number of cases down by breaking the chain of infection, and reduce pressure on our healthcare system.”