At the LA County Board of Supervisors’ (BOS) hearing on August 10, 2021, two items related to COVID-19 vaccination mandates were on the agenda. The first was the Executive Order mandating COVID-19 vaccines for all County employees, authored by the Board Chair, Supervisor Hilda Solis. The second was a motion authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn, also mandating COVID-19 vaccines, but with a testing option for those not desiring to be vaccinated.
During this meeting, PPOA President Tab Rhodes addressed the BOS during public comment and communicated membership’s concerns and objection to the Executive Order and support for additional consideration of the motion authored by Supervisor Hahn. Click here to read President Rhodes’ comments.
Following public comments and lengthy conversations amongst the Supervisors, in a surprising move, the BOS both ratified the Executive Order and passed the motion by Supervisor Hahn, seemingly giving two different directions to employees.
PPOA has been in communication with the CEO’s Office since first being notified of the Executive Order and Supervisor Hahn’s motion last week. As communicated in our email blast of August 5, 2021, the PPOA Board of Directors and legal counsel continue to review the current information provided and await further proposals and policies as the results of the BOS actions are even more confusing. PPOA has notified the County, Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation and Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner of our intent to assert our bargaining rights as to the impacts of these mandates on PPOA members.
One particularly contentious moment of the BOS meeting came during comments from Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, exploding through social media of PPOA membership. During her comments, Supervisor Kuehl referenced the low vaccination rate, “astounding they are lower in the Sheriff’s Department, Fire, and Probation than in other areas…concerns about several employees and supervisors of the Sheriff’s Department …and a couple of them have said they would rather be fired then to be stuck with, you know the cells of dead babies (COVID-19 vaccine) and I of course would love to accommodate them and fire them tomorrow, but you know, be careful what you ask for.” PPOA is supportive of any/all efforts to move past this pandemic and return to life as normal, but always remains respectful of our members’ opinions, perspective, and right to make personal health decisions. These unnecessary and inflammatory comments by Supervisor Kuehl enraged members of PPOA, requiring a response.
Today, President Rhodes personally contacted both Supervisor Kuehl and Supervisor Solis. During the conversation with Supervisor Kuehl, she doubled-down on her comments, as she believes public safety and employees should be leaders in protecting the County’s citizens against exposure to COVID-19. Supervisor Kuehl offered no apology for her passion and perceived harshness as she explained her responsibilities to the overall health and welfare of the community members. Her perspective remains that “attitudes” in opposition to mandatory vaccination are detrimental to efforts to combat the pandemic and that public safety should embrace their duty to the community they serve. President Rhodes communicated to her that her comments insulted PPOA members, created unnecessary animosity, and only through collaboration and mutual respect can solutions be achieved.
Soon thereafter, President Rhodes spoke with Supervisor Solis. President Rhodes was able to communicate many of the members’ concerns and confusion to her during this call. Supervisor Solis listened intently, commenting in reply that her expectations are that mandatory vaccinations are the way of the future. She believes that FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccines is imminent, and the Federal Government, military, the State, and voluminous numbers of private entities will mandate vaccinations. Supervisor Solis did inquire as to progress on information provided by the County to PPOA and any upcoming timeline of Meet and Confer meetings, to which President Rhodes had limited information. Supervisor Solis expressed her expectations that further proposals and meetings will be forthcoming in the immediate future.
PPOA recognizes the many complexities of the vaccination issue, and remains respectful of members’ concerns. If there is any good news to come out of this communication, PPOA can represent that the County has acknowledged our rights to negotiate the impacts, albeit confusing, of the BOS actions. Further information will be distributed as it is received.