In memorial for more than 5,700 who died of COVID-19 in L.A. County, unions push for worker-led councils to help cite health violations

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A memorial commemorating the more than 5,700 people who have died of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County stood on the steps of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration in downtown L.A. on Monday.

A coalition of workers’ unions organized the tribute outside the building, which houses the L.A. County Board of Supervisors’ office, as part of an effort to push for the establishment of councils that would enlist workers to “serve as the eyes and ears” in their workplaces to determine any health order violations during the pandemic.

In front of flowers arranged to say “5,700” and photos of people who have succumbed to the coronavirus, Rob Nothoff of the L.A. County Federation of Labor spoke about how the illness has ravaged the region.

“We’re talking about [nearly] 5,800 families who’ll never see their loved ones again,” he said.

“What’s troubling is that most of that could have been prevented if people just followed health orders,” Nothoff added.

He said that health councils led by workers would empower them to speak out about health violations without fear of retaliation. The coalition planned to propose the “common sense” policy to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

A former employee at the Los Angeles Apparel factory, which has reported four deaths and more than 365 cases of COVID-19 among its workers, shared his experience falling ill from the disease.

Francisco Tzul said he was hospitalized and became homeless overnight when his roommates did not want him to return home.

Tzul said he wanted to speak out on behalf of the garment workers demanding better health standards, and those who have died working for minimum wage.

“Garment workers make your masks, your clothes in Los Angeles,” he said.

Rabbi Neil Commess-Daniels of the Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice spoke at the event in support of the workers and held a moment of silence for those who have died.

“The people we’re remembering here today never knew that they were essential workers,” Commess-Daniels said. “They never signed up for it. They never knew they were in the frontlines.”

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