Council Moves Hero Pay for Hospitals, Keeps Streets Open for Dining Through Summer

The City Council meeting of May 24, 2021 continued the push to require a ‘hero pay’ bonus for local hospital workers, and opted to keep tables on the sidewalks and the streets downtown through to Labor Day, 2021. 

The meeting, which convened almost half an hour after it’s scheduled start at 7 pm, owing to a long ‘closed session’ lasted more than six hours, and dropped in to the now familiar pattern of key decisions being made on a three to two split; Mayor Alex Fisch, Vice Mayor Daniel Lee and Council member Yasmine Imani McMorrin voting yes, and Albert Vera, Jr. and Goran Eriksson voting no. 

With Agenda Item A-1, Premium Hazard Pay for On-Site Hospital Workers, several dozen people spoke from the virtual podium, promoting both sides of the argument. While representation from Southern California Hospital spoke about contract negotiations with the union, paying for meals and child care for employees, hospital employees and supporters spoke about the daily risk of infection and the challenges of fighting the pandemic without proper personal protective equipment (PPE.) 

Vice Mayor Lee noted that inserting the hero pay ordinance into the contract negotiations was inappropriate. “These two things are not related and do not connect… the hospital’s agreement with the union for the employees has no bearing on the city’s support for hazard pay.” He also cited the evidence of a hospital employee who had contracted COVID-19 at his job, gone home and infected another family member, and that both had died.

Council member Eriksson offered “We have a lot of front line workers; why are we just focusing on this particular employer? There are inherent risks in being in a hospital … but we see that this was manageable.” 

The three to two vote on the motion keeps the ordinance moving on for final approval. 

Item A-2, Extending Emergency Temporary Use Permits, ran directly into the upcoming MOVE Culver City project. The option of keeping the outdoor dining open for the downtown restaurants, and making the bus only lane permanent on the westbound side of Culver Boulevard had to be considered in relationship to everything downtown. 

Downtown Business Association President Darrel Menthe spoke from the virtual podium, saying”I think that when we opted to open up [outdoor dining] during the pandemic, we may have literally saved our downtown…keeping all this open until the weather turns colder gives us more time to consider a completed redesigned [area.]” 

More than a dozen speakers asked to keep the area car free, and keep the public space walkable. Carolyn Allport was one of many who offered that she had “invited friends here from many other places – cities like Westwood and even Santa Monica – and they have marveled at how well it all works…it makes our city a role model.” 

A decision was made to keep things in place until Labor Day, with more discussion on the issue being considered during the summer. The vote again was three to two, on the same lines as the previous item. 

Judith Martin-Straw


The Actors' Gang

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