Gilroy Chamber Business Focus-January 2022

January 31, 2022

News & Updates

What Am I Required to do When an Employee Tests Positive for COVID?

Article by Sunny Lee, CalChamber

  • Notify employees and employers of subcontracted employees who were on the same worksite as the worker diagnosed with COVID-19 during the infectious period in writing within one business day of the notice of potential exposure.

As Labor Code Section 6409.6 (a)(1) states: “Provide a written notice to all employees, and the employers of subcontracted employees, who were on the premises at the same worksite as the qualifying individual within the infectious period that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 in a manner the employer normally uses to communicate employment-related information. Written notice may include, but is not limited to, personal service, email, or text message if it can reasonably be anticipated to be received by the employee within one business day of sending and shall be in both English and the language understood by the majority of the employees.”

Do not provide the name or medical condition of the employee who tested positive.

For more information on this requirement, see the California Department of Public Health memo: “Employer Questions about AB 685, California’s New COVID-19 Law.”

  • Notify your workers’ compensation carrier.Beginning on September 17, 2020, and going until January 1, 2023, California employers are required to notify their workers’ compensation carrier of any employee who tests positive for COVID within three business days. Employers who submit false or misleading information or fail to report may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000.

The following information is required:

1) name of the employee who tested positive;

2) date of the positive test;

3) address where the employee works and where the employee worked during the 14 days preceding the date of the test;

4) highest number of employees who reported to work within the 45-day period immediately preceding the last date that the employee testing positive worked.

Other information that may be helpful for your carrier:

  • Whether the employee was at a shared worksite or working remotely from home.
  • Whether the employee thinks they were exposed at work from another employee or from a family member, friend, travel or social gathering.
  • If the employee has been around anyone outside of work who is sick or tested positive, and whether the person who is sick or tested positive is under any isolation or quarantine order from a doctor.

The workers’ compensation carrier will then investigate whether the employee’s exposure was work-related.

  • View and follow the most current information on the County Public Health Department website in the county where the work is performed.

COVID information that is posted includes requirements for masks, social distancing, isolation and quarantine times, and when an employee can report back to work. It is important to view and follow the most current information concerning isolation or quarantine times for an employee who has tested positive.

  • View and follow the most current COVID information on the website of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).

In November 2020, Cal/OSHA put out an emergency regulation requiring that all employers create and maintain a COVID-19 Prevention Plan. A template for that plan can be obtained from Cal/OSHA’s website at here.

In addition, Cal OSHA has posted frequently asked questions (FAQs) interpreting its regulations. The COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards Frequently Asked Questions were last updated on January 24, 2022, and can be found at www.dir.ca.gov.

More Information

If you have questions about reporting positive tests for workers’ compensation purposes, contact your workers’ compensation carrier.

If you have questions about quarantine times, masks or testing, refer to your County Public Health Department and also Cal/OSHA.

For general questions, you may call the CalChamber Labor Law Helpline.

For specific questions about your situation and what you should do, contact your attorney.

 

Housing Opportunities Only Get More Difficult Because of This

Article by Adam Regele

Legislation that expands a broken California environmental law and hurts the ability to build more housing was tagged by the California Chamber of Commerce as a job killer this week.

AB 1001 (Cristina Garcia; D-Bell Gardens) expands the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to incorporate new, highly subjective, nonquantifiable and litigation-bait standards into CEQA in an attempt to address historical discriminatory land use policies.

Hard to Build

“AB 1001 will make it even more difficult to build quickly and cost effectively in California,” said CalChamber Senior Policy Advocate Adam Regele.

“Issues related to historical environmental injustices in the state should be addressed through more suitable areas of California law — but CEQA is not one of those areas. AB 1001 will impede local governments’ ability to approve new housing projects, depress jobs directly in and associated with the construction industry and further exacerbate California’s cost-of-living crisis already driving families, businesses, and jobs out of the state,” Regele said.

“This bill will worsen California’s current housing crisis by expanding CEQA’s most troubling aspects. AB 1001 offers California more problems —protracted ligation and project delays that will limit home building and disproportionally hurt California’s working families,” said Regele.

Coalition Opposition

The CalChamber and a large coalition of allied groups argue that AB 1001 is unnecessary and the wrong policy mechanism because the goals of the bill are already addressed in existing law and CEQA abuse by citizen enforcers already exploits the statute to delay or block critically needed housing.

Currently, CEQA prohibits lead agencies from approving projects with significant environmental effects to any community, including disadvantaged ones, if there are any feasible alternatives or mitigation measures that would substantially lessen or avoid those effects.

California recently has enacted a number of other laws specific to environmental justice, including laws directing funding to environmental justice communities, creating a community air quality protection program, and most recently requiring all cities and counties to adopt a new environmental justice land use element in their comprehensive, long-term general plans. The Legislature should allow these policies to be implemented and provided a chance to work before upending CEQA.

Voter Concern

Cost of living and rising home prices are huge issues for California voters. In a recent CalChamber poll, when voters were asked if another state offered a greater opportunity for homeownership than California, a majority of nonhomeowners answered “yes.”

More than two-thirds of renters for whom home ownership is a high priority reported that they would move if another state offered a greater opportunity for homeownership than California.

 

Spice of Life Award Winners

Alyssa E. Gonzalez – Susan Valenta Youth Leadership Award

Alyssa’s school, GECA, hosts a “Week of Kindness” every semester, where students write and share kind notes to each other to uplift student morale. Typically used to receiving some notes from her friends at school, she was caught by surprise when a student she briefly interacted with left her a note thanking her for always showing up to class with a positive mindset and speaking out about social justice issues on social media; promoting her to talk to her family about those same issues. Alyssa was unaware of the impact she had on a fellow peer, but the idea that she could positively influence others’ lives through mediums she is passionate about is what prompts her to wake up in the mornings and continue serving her community.

Some of Alyssa’s greatest accomplishments entail being the Area 9 Director for Rotary’s Interact District 5170, which has given her the opportunity to serve her community across the Bay Area, working alongside like-minded individuals with a common goal of proving how community service can change an individual’s life, both physically and emotionally. She is also an active member of GECA’s Honors Tribunal, which has allowed her to strengthen her empathetic skills and genuinely connect with students on campus. Knowing that she’s someone others can rely on or come to for advice fuels her ambition to continue embracing people with kindness and understanding.  

One of Alyssa’s greatest struggles throughout her educational career was her battle against imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is common among many high school scholars like Alyssa, who often find themselves drowned out amidst groups of other qualified and confident individuals. She stayed focused and sought to discover methods to help deal with this mindset, sharing techniques she found useful with others. Her advice is to others is to find their passion and use that to elevate their own voices within their community.

Alyssa firmly believes student voices and youth representation matters in every sector of life. She believes that students being the representation they want to see in the world will inspire others, enticing a chain reaction that results in everyone having their voices heard. She also advises students to take every opportunity as a learning experience and go out of their comfort zone. Take a class someone normally wouldn’t, indulge in a new hobby, and challenge one’s own perspectives to make sure that when students speak their truth, they are doing so equitably.

Alyssa’s parents always emphasized the importance of sharing. With five older siblings, they were constantly sharing food, toys, and even life wisdom to keep each other connected both physically and emotionally. She believes the same morals should be applied to our community. There’s so much pain in the world that lending a helping hand to others is the least that she believes she and others can do to help form a sense of unity and uplift human morale.

After graduating from GECA in May, Alyssa plans to attend a university with an interest in pursuing a double major in ethnic studies/sociology and biology; two of her strongest passions. Her belief that both subjects should co-exist and inspire one another to create new and innovative ideas drives Alyssa to choose this educational path. Staying true to her roots in activism, she also hopes to continue participating in culturally enriching programs that advocate for human rights, focus on decreasing mental health stigmatization, and possibly partake in a little Folkloric dance!

Andrea Nicolette – Volunteer of the Year

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce has benefitted Andrea in her efforts by it being a great networking source for all business small and new, including the YMCA. It has helped with marketing, supporting various YMCA initiatives such as the House of Toys. And as an ambassador to the Chamber, Andrea has appreciated the way that it has been a great way to make friends, share ideas, and help other businesses and community organizations. Andrea has been an active volunteer in the Chamber for years helping with various projects and severing on various committees.

Andrea has been working at the YMCA for almost 20 years. She first started as a volunteer and eventually became the Executive Director serving South County, an area that she grew up in. Within those 20 years, more of her accomplishments reflect in the many partnerships that Andrea has contributed to. This has allowed the communities she’s been a part of to thrive, some of those include being at the beginning stages of PowerSchool, an after school program that supports children in the Gilroy Unified School District. In 2006, she was also a part of the leadership team that opened the Centennial Recreation Center with the city of Morgan Hill. 

In the last six years as the Executive Director, Andrea has increased the annual giving campaign for financial assistance for families in South County and secured the meal delivery program to home bound seniors. Andrea has also been an active ally to the LGBTQ+ community in both Morgan Hill and Gilroy. 

Andrea believes that her motivation stems from the idea that at the end of the day, making a difference in someone’s life, is worth all the hard work that is put in is supporting human beings.

What drives Andrea is seeing the benefit and hearing the testimonials firsthand from the families that have been helped through the YMCA’s annual giving campaign. 

From delivering meals to seniors to having a safe place for kids to go after school and throughout summer, serving the people of her community has been and always will be her motivation.  

What Andrea loves most about Gilroy is the small town feel with people looking out for their neighbors and supporting the small businesses. It’s a place where anybody from any background can become active in the city as long as they have an open mind and open heart. 

Andrea thinks it’s important to give back to the community because it is made up of people in need of service whether they need support, direction, financial assistance, or inspiration. Andrea’s philosophy is that anyone can be on the receiving end at any time, so it is imperative to give back while on the serving side. Andrea said, “A family member, a friend, or even oneself may need help at one or many points in their lives.” Andrea added, “Serving the community and giving back ensures that good things will come one’s way when they put their efforts into helping people in the community.”

Nicky Austin – Educator of the Year

Nicky became a teacher by accident. Once graduating from UCSC with a degree in Biological Sciences, she was working for an engineering firm in Watsonville, CA, writing Environmental Site Assessments for land development.  During this time, a friend of hers was teaching summer school at a nearby high school and asked her to come in one day to be a guest speaker and bring in her vast collection of skulls, bones, skins, and teeth to showcase local wildlife to those students.  From then on, at her friend’s recommendation and encouragement, she switched careers and pursued a teaching credential and a career in life science education  – and 30 years later she is still doing what she loves!

She began her teaching career as a student teacher at Watsonville High School in 1990 learning from a master teacher there, Kirby Reed, in a Freshman Biology class.  From there she student taught with the famous John Licursi at Brownell Middle School in Gilroy.  Her first job was a long-term subbing position at Martin Murphy Middle School in San Jose. She took over a 7th grade Life Science class where she was lucky enough to have Jackie Horsch’s daughter in the class.  Not long after, she was contacted by Ms. Horsch, the former DO Assistant Superintendent, and asked Nicky to apply to teach science at Gilroy High School where she was hired in the fall of 1992.

When asked what she enjoys most about her involvement in Gilroy, Nicky said, “That’s easy.  The students and their families!”  She went on to say, “Over the years, I have been fortunate to have had so many awesome students, and their cousins, neighbors and siblings, and even now… their children.”

She considers it a blessing to have been part of so many students’ journeys through high school.

As for what she finds most rewarding as a teacher, Nicky said, “To see students grasp an idea or discover the beauty and wonder in the natural world.” She also said, It’s been so rewarding working with amazing staff members that she has learned so much from over the years.”

When she first began teaching Biology at Gilroy High School in the fall of 1992, she was schooled by master teachers there – Steve Jackson, Dale Morejon, Ron Kinoshita, and Eric Kuwada.  They always told her that she was not a teacher, but a “Salesman of Science.”  The main objective was to sell science to clients (students) and if they could do that, students would love the class they were in and eat up all kinds of science for life. After 30 years, she is most proud of her continued love of science and her daily opportunity and joy of “selling science.”

When giving advice to other up and coming educators, Nicky provided the following tidbits: 

  1. Remember that students don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
  2. Rigor in the classroom is showing respect for your subject and respect for students by maintaining high standards for students.  And then provide the coaching necessary to help them succeed. Always push for excellence – from yourself, from your students and from the staff you work with.
  3. Flexibility – through pandemics, quarantines, sicknesses, power outages, flooding, etc… We are all doing the best we can and a little flexibility can go a long way to encouraging students to hang in there.
  4. Have a Sense of Humor – we all can use some levity in life and laughing is good for the soul.
  5. Patience – with yourself, with your students, with work orders, with other staff… we are all working hard.
  6. Teamwork – alone we can accomplish some.  Together we can accomplish a lot. 
One Giving Tree – Non-Profit of the Year

In the winter of 2014 One Giving Tree started with ten trees, ornaments and tree stands – or “tree kits.” In 2016 they delivered over 100. In 2018 One Giving Tree surpassed the 500 tree kits delivered-to-date benchmark. In 2020 with no fundraising due to the economic shut down, they delivered 332 tree kits, and included gift cards to Old City Hall Restaurant for the families. This past year, 2021, One Giving Tree delivered 377 tree kits and gift cards and surpassed 1,500 tree kits delivered-to-date.

One Giving Tree has a simple mission – “Making the holidays brighter” Debbi remembers the early days as a family when money was tight, and things weren’t always easy. Some years there weren’t many gifts, but there was always a tree to serve as a reminder to be grateful for what they had, and that things would get better. For her, One Giving Tree is a way to share that message with other families who are facing tough times. Mike sees One Giving Tree as a way to keep young children in conversations with peers. Something as seemingly insignificant as a tree, the latest gadget, or the lack there of, will start the process of separation between the “haves” and “have nots,” leading to real and imagined class systems and pecking orders. When everyone is talking about their awesome trees and decked out houses, and the gifts they want for Christmas, Mike wants every kid to be in that conversation if they choose to be. In that way, Mike sees One Giving Tree as a bridge builder, providing hope, confidence, and a sense of normalcy for kids and families who already have enough pressure to deal with. To Mike and Debbi, “Making the holidays brighter” is about more than just a tree. It’s providing hope and positive lasting memories in a tangible way.

Born and raised in Gilroy, Mike and Debbi have a deep love for the community and the south county. Among the things they love most is the small-town feel, the strength and resolve of the community, and the people. Anywhere they go, they are greeted by people they know, someone they are related to, or at the very least, a friendly, smiling face. Avid hikers, they love the surrounding hillsides, parks and public lands that provide recreation and outdoor adventures. As a place to call home, Gilroy offers everything a person needs to have a good life; location, weather, attractions, proximity, resources, and opportunity to serve and lead if a person chooses.

Mike and Debbi believe that caring for others and helping wherever you are able is the definition of community. Giving back is not an option – it’s a responsibility. Since their teenage years, the two have volunteered side by side on numerous local fundraisers, events, and causes. It is a core fundamental in their character as individuals and as a couple. They consider themselves blessed to have grown up in a community where so many people from different walks of life modeled volunteerism – giving their time, talents, and treasures to help others and build community. Knowing so many who’ve given so much over the years, and knowing those who currently do the same, is an honor and a privilege. It is what makes a community. And what makes Gilroy great.

One Giving Tree hopes to continue to expand their tree kits to include more gift card donations to help families during the holidays. As a 501c3 nonprofit organization, they will continue to find creative ways to fill gaps in services for local kids and their families and incorporate those solutions into their mission. Currently serving families in San Benito County, Gilroy, Morgan Hill and South San Jose, One Giving Tree hopes to expand their reach by sharing their story and success with other communities and the agencies that serve them. Refining logistics and operations is a top priority as One Giving Tree looks to grow in the future. Those plans include the possibility of establishing their own local tree farm to provide a dependable, renewable source for trees.

 

January 24, 2022

Spice of Life Award Winners

CordeValle – Large Business of the Year

CordeValle is a hidden gem that combines the extraordinary beauty of an awe-inspiring natural landscape with the convenience and hospitality of a luxury resort. Sprawling over almost 1,700 acres in the San Martin countryside, the resort is a sanctuary of gently undulating meadows, tree-dotted hills, seasonal creeks and waterfalls. Employing a workforce of more than 200 employees, they see themselves as ambassadors committed to create an authentic and exclusive experience for their members and guests by offering the finest golf, recreation, culinary and luxury accommodations. They also consider themselves stewards of the 1,700 acres of open space protecting the endangered species that habitat in their surroundings.

CordeValle has been consistently recognized as one of the top resorts in California by the world’s leading publications, travel magazines and consumer organizations.

  • Wine Spectator’s 2020 Restaurant Awards — Best of Award of Excellence
  • Golf Digest Editors’ Choice 2020 — Best Golf Resorts in California
  • Conde Nast Traveler’s 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards — #9 Top Resort in Northern California
  • Wine Spectator’s 2019 Restaurant Award — Best of Award of Excellence
  • Golf Digest Editors’ Choice 2019 — Best Golf Resorts in California
  • Forbes Travel Guide — Four-Star Award
  • Conde Nast Traveler’s 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards — #1 Top Resort in Northern California
  • Conde Nast Traveler’s 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards — #5 Top Resort in the United States
  • Wine Spectator’s 2018 Restaurant Award — Best of Award of Excellence
  • Golf Digest Editors’ Choice 2018 — Best Golf Resorts in California
  • U.S. News & World Report — #6 in the Best Resorts in California
  • U.S. News & World Report — #12 in the Best Hotels in California
  • Forbes Travel Guide — Four-Star Award
  • Forbes Travel Guide — Four-Star Award, The Spa at CordeValle

CordeValle’s leadership is committed to the surrounding communities and support local charities, such as Rebekah’s Children’s Services, Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, Gilroy Garlic Festival, Veterans, Police and Fire, as well as others, often times hosting golf tournaments for fundraising purposes. They also have the CordeValle Youth Golf Foundation which supports all local high school golf teams.

When reflecting on why it’s so important to give back to the community, General Manager, Luca Rutigliano said, “We are only as strong as the community is and we can only be successful if the community succeeds.”

The Neon Exchange – Small Business of the Year

Toni Bowles said that her inspiration to create The Neon Exchange came from a personal need to achieve a more balanced work life. She said, “This environment blends my need for community engagement as well as physical and mental well-being.” Once known as the Louis Hotel, Toni purchased the old, abandoned building at the end of 2018 to create one of the brightest more active spots in downtown Gilroy. 

Toni’s goals for the Neon Exchange include delivering a solid, high-quality list of annual community events setting the stage for Downtown Gilroy as a destination spot for creative activities & community/cultural events. She also sees The Neon Exchange acting as a catalyst for larger citywide events bringing together other nonprofits, business, and government entities.

Some of Toni’s major accomplishments include:

  • Producing a local YouTube cooking show with Chef Segovia hosting local community members
  • Helping to launch PitStop Outreach out of The Neon Exchange’s kitchen during the pandemic which feeds the homeless
  • Fully leased out the 2nd floor private offices during the pandemic
  • Completed a 900 sq. ft. community healing mural with over 40 community artists of all skill levels
  • Hosted an outdoor free community yoga series
  • Produced what will be annual events (Bridal Show & Holiday Bazaar) attracting 300+ guests including locals and out-of-towners
  • Writing a successfully funded Lowe’s grant for the Gilroy Center for the Arts/Gilroy Arts Alliance
  • Bridging strong relationships between the private and public sector for the greater good of the community
  • Co-Hosting the House of Toys Gilroy toy drive with the Mt. Madonna YMCA providing toys, jackets and books to hundreds of families

When asked about why it’s important to give back to the community, Toni said, “Community is at the core of local commerce.  If our community is healthy, happy, and engaged it will be reflected in the individual prosperity of our neighbors.” She went on to say, “By taking care of our community at all levels, we are in effect sending the message that they are important. They become a pro-social, contributing member of society that feels included and accepted. This makes for an ideal place to live and work when we can all come together for a common good which is why it is important for me to find ways to give back.”

Leo Khooshabeh – Young Professional of the Year

When asked what inspires Leo, he said, “For me it all starts with helping others. I have a passion for helping people” Leo loves being a resource for people in their pursuit of their goals. He gets a lot of satisfaction out of motivating and inspiring people in the area of problem solving, Leo went on to say, “While I enjoy finding and solving my own problems, it is even more gratifying to me to help others solve their problems.

Leo’s passion is to lead a good life, find the best in himself and become the best version of himself that he can possibly be. Leo is family-oriented and finds one of his greatest accomplishments the fact that his parents are proud of the person he has become today.

In giving advice to other emerging leaders, Leo said, “Learn how to value people as individuals! Leadership is a business of people, not money or things. Begin to serve others and treat them fairly and equally.”

Leo believes spending time enriching your community is a great way to broaden your perceptions of the area you live in. He went on to say, “By immersing yourself in a community and surrounding yourself with people who are dedicated to bettering themselves and community, you can learn so much about how the world works. You gain a unique sense of purpose by serving those around you, one which often manifests in other areas of your life.”

Andrew Briggs – Young Professional of the Year

Andrew is inspired to lead because of the opportunities he has been given in his life. He believes that every person should have the ability to pursue their dreams with the same resources and opportunities that he had growing up. His goal as a leader is to help those in the community overcome challenges so they can continue to move forward. Equity, compassion, and respect are some of the core ideals that motivate Andrew’s leadership style. He likes to lead by example with a focus on honesty, transparency, and empathy.

Andrew’s passion in life is education. He feels that education allows people to open doors for themselves and helps create equity for all. He supports this view by helping to teach others Job Skills, Culinary Skills, and Life skills, continuing his education by pursuing a business degree at Gavilan College, and participating in a volunteer education work in his free time. He has also tutored and mentored high school students, and supported club activities at Gilroy High, GECA, and Christopher High School. Andrew also serves on the Leadership Gilroy Board of Directors, helping to provide the best leadership education possible for the Gilroy Community. He oversees the Leadership Gilroy Youth program that matches his love for education and leadership and allows him to have an impact on the lives of young people.

Andrew gives back to the community because the community has given so much to him. He believes that giving back to the community is a social responsibility which contributes to the greater good. He believes that wanting to support those around you is a universal goal. Andrew was also raised to believe in the happiness that come from giving to others, and that it has a positive impact on your own wellbeing. He has personally seen the impact that funds, resources, or time can have in changing lives for so many vulnerable people in the community.

Andrew would like to tell emerging leaders, and especially young leaders, that it takes time to build your leadership style and to gain the community’s trust. Always move forward with caution and confidence, focusing on the goal before you. Being a leader is about being able to adapt when needed, while also following through on your goals. A good leader gets results without compromising integrity or quality. Andrew believes that there is always a need for good leadership and that if you hold true to your values, there will always be another opportunity to lead.

One of the most satisfying experiences Andrew has had as a young leader and mentor is watching students go on to advocate for themselves and improve their own lives. He strives to continue giving back so that he can see more students pursue their dreams.

News & Updates

Monthly Spotlight with the Mayor

Submitted by Gilroy Mayor Marie Blankley

Hello Gilroy! In this first month of 2022, I begin the year with a Spotlight on the Gilroy Fire Department. As always, what you read in this monthly spotlight newsletter from me will be followed up with in-person Conversation and Coffee with the Mayor on the first Saturday of the following month in Council Chambers at 9:30am. Fire Chief Jim Wyatt will be joining me, as well as City Administrator Jimmy Forbis, so please mark your calendars for Saturday, February 5 and plan to attend. There’s a lot of information here, and we look forward to face-to-face discussions with you, albeit with our ever-present virus and mask requirements. Please note that seating in Council Chambers will be pre-arranged with safety protocols, and the indoor mask requirements must be observed while not taking those sips of coffee or water.

I hope you value the information you’re about to read. See you on February 5th!

Mayor Marie Blankley, CPA

View the entire Spotlight article here.

Gilroy Chamber Opposes Devastating Assembly Bill

AB 257 will devastate restaurants/franchise businesses throughout California. Many franchises are independent small businesses. Just because they are associated with a corporation for branding and marketing purposes, that does not mean that franchises are large businesses themselves or have similar profitability margins. Small franchise businesses make their own decisions when it comes to hiring and general business operations. 

In fact, the reason why so many minorities and independent entrepreneurs choose to open a franchise business is because they do not have the resources to start a new business by themselves. Minority entrepreneurs link themselves to a franchisor so that they can access a successful business model to access new opportunities that may otherwise be unattainable on their own. Nearly 33% of all franchises across the country are owned by minorities, compared to just 18% of non-franchise businesses. Restaurants and franchises are where minorities achieve financial success which uplifts up people from all walks of life and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

AB 257 creates a Fast-Food Sector Council of 11 members (5 agency, 2 union, 2 employee, 1 franchisor, 1 franchisee) that would issue minimum employment standards on wages, working hours and other working conditions for fast food restaurant employees.  A simple majority of 6 Council votes would be required to pass any standard. The standards would be compulsory for fast food businesses to follow and could go above and beyond current rules and regulations. To the extent any Council standard conflicts with the rules or regulations of another State agency (other than Cal OSHA), the Council standard will apply.  The rule or regulation of the other State agency will not have any force or effect as it relates to fast food restaurant employees, franchisors, and franchisees. The Council is also empowered with broad subpoena power over franchisees and franchisors.

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce as well as the Silicon Valley Chamber Coalition opposed AB 257 last year and will oppose it again this year. There is great concern over the appointment of any counsel that has such broad power to implement policies independent of elected, accountable officials. 

The impact of AB 257 could be devastating to businesses as well as employees. If this appointed counsel decides to force businesses to pay higher wages beyond approved minimum wage standards, employers may have no other options but to reduce work staff, cut hours, or simply invest in technology that replaces workers.

Fast Food Bill Discourages Small Business Owners

Opinion by Matt Haller, President/CEO, International Franchise Association

CalMatters’ article describing the FAST Recovery Act attempted to break down the pros and cons of the proposed legislation. The headline posed the question: Does Assembly Bill 257 empower workers or does it equate to government overreach? 

The bill, which failed once in the Legislature, is a massive and unnecessary government intrusion.

However, the untold message about AB 257 is the damage this legislation will have on small businesses and small-business owners in California.

Why is that important to the broader economy? 

There are more than 4.1 million small businesses in California, according to the Small Business Administration. California small businesses employed 7.1 million people, or 48.8% of the private workforce. In areas that include food services, 63% of employees work for small businesses. 

Even California Gov. Gavin Newsom understands the importance of small business – his recently released California Blueprint made investing in small businesses a top priority by offering hundreds of millions in grants and tax breaks to small businesses.

What lawmakers should know is the harm the legislation would levy on one of the most successful startup business models – franchising. The franchise model, whereby a brand and business are developed by a franchisor and a franchisee pays for the right to distribute products and services in the model, is a time-honored success driver.

Franchises are known to give women, members of the LGBTQ-plus community, new immigrants and people of color unprecedented business-owning opportunities – 60% of California restaurants are owned by people of color. From auto repair to childcare, the franchise model meets customer needs with a known and trusted brand.

Less acknowledged but also important, local franchisees deliver a large share of economic benefits to their nearby community. Local franchisees pay taxes and fees and support countless civic organizations. Nationally, approximately 7.5 million people work for a franchise business. Workers, many of whom are entering the workforce for the first time, can maintain flexible schedules and work part time to manage home and family obligations. 

In fact, new research shows franchises offer better pay and more opportunity than similarly situated non-franchised businesses – paying 2-3% higher wages, offering more than 65% of employee’s health insurance, and 76% of franchise employees are offered vacation, holiday and sick leave.

Today, the franchise system in California is under attack. Sponsored by the Service Employees International Union, the FAST Recovery Act sets aside existing labor laws in favor of a new set of rules developed and enforced by 11 unelected political appointees. It creates a second layer of local unelected councils in cities larger than 200,000 residents.

It requires franchisors to strip franchisees of autonomy and reduce franchisees from independent business owners to corporate middle managers. It also restricts new entrepreneurs who want to be in business for themselves but not by themselves, and benefit from a brand that is already known to the public. All this suggests there is something wrong with California’s existing – and comprehensive – regulations and enforcement.

As we enter a third year of the pandemic, restaurants are among the most at-risk businesses. Food prices are rising, indoor dining is often deemed too risky and a patchwork of outdoor dining laws have cast even the most obvious dining solutions into doubt. With waves of restaurants closing once again with the rise of the Omicron variant, California policymakers should be supporting, not targeting an industry that contributes to local economies.

It is not often that legislation proposed by the chair of the Appropriations Committee and backed by unions cannot pass its house of origin. However, in the 2021 legislative session, enough brave lawmakers became aware of the damage that would be caused in their community. Legislative attempts to dismantle the franchise model in California will harm small business owners and local communities. Legislators should again reject the FAST Recovery Act.

County of Santa Clara Public Health Offers Guidance to Best Use COVID-19 Testing Options

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – With a high demand for COVID-19 testing locally and throughout the nation, the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department is offering guidance to those unsure of what kind of test to use and whether or not they need one.

The testing options are a PCR test, typically administered in a clinic or drive-through operation; and an antigen test, which are also available for home use.

The County recommends that the antigen tests be used for purposes of shortening isolation or quarantine periods for those who have tested positive or been exposed to a person with COVID.

Positive antigen results should be recognized as valid – there is no need for a follow up PCR test at a healthcare or County facility.

In addition, people who have previously tested positive within the past 90 days should not get tested again during that time frame unless they have new symptoms – in which case they should use an antigen test.

PCR tests are generally more sensitive than antigen tests, but antigen tests are good at detecting when people are most infectious.

“We want to provide some practical guidance to the community about COVID-19 testing,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Health Officer and Director of Public Health for the County of Santa Clara. “Testing opportunities are not unlimited, and we want to make sure tests are being used when and where they are most needed.”

The County also reminds patients of all healthcare systems that they have a right to a test from their provider if they have symptoms or have been exposed to an individual who has COVID-19.  Large healthcare systems remain subject to the Health Officer’s Testing Order.

The County of Santa Clara offers the following guidance to cover the fundamentals of COVID-19 testing.

You SHOULD get tested if:

  • You have new symptoms that might mean you have COVID: Fatigue, headache, body/muscle aches, cough, fever, sore throat, and/or congestion.
    • Please note that if you have new symptoms and you are at high risk for severe illness from COVID because of other medical conditions, older age, or having a compromised immune system, it is especially important to get tested because if you test positive, you may qualify for early treatment to reduce your risk of severe illness.

You MAY CONSIDER getting tested if:

  • It’s been 2-5 days after you have a known exposure to someone with COVID, especially if you are unvaccinated or have symptoms.

You SHOULD NOT get tested with PCR testing if:

  • You have already tested positive by a home/antigen test. Assume you have COVID and isolate accordingly. Do not get tested again at a testing lab – it is unnecessary and uses resources that could be used to test another individual.
  • You have tested positive in the last 90 days. You do not need get tested again unless you are newly symptomatic or required to quarantine—if this is your situation, use a home/antigen test.

WHERE to get a test:

  • Under the September 16, 2020 health order, large healthcare providers are legally required to provide prompt testing to patients who are symptomatic or have been exposed to someone who has COVID. However:
    • The Emergency Room is for patients who are very sick and need emergency care. It is not for COVID testing.
  • The County continues to test individuals at its various mass testing sites and clinics. Visit org.
  • Home antigen tests are a valuable tool. Starting Jan. 15, health insurers nationwide are required to cover the costs of up to eight at-home COVID tests per month. A positive result on an antigen test should be considered final; an additional PCR test should not be done. Home antigen tests are available through pharmacies, various retail stores as well as online vendors.
    • Workplaces, schools, and childcare facilities are encouraged to accept results from home testing so that individuals do not need to go to a testing site or their healthcare provider and use testing resources that could be used to test others.

If you HAVE SYMPTOMS of COVID and are UNABLE TO GET TESTED:

  • Assume you have COVID and follow isolation guidelines. If members of your household are having similar symptoms, and at least one of them tests positive for COVID, assume that all members have COVID.
  • If you are having difficulty breathing or other severe symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

January 17, 2022

Proud Members of the Gilroy Chamber

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce appreciates the support of our members. Investment dollars are dedicated to vital programs such as economic development, business marketing, leadership programs, and more. We applaud each of you for helping make Gilroy a better place to live and work. To learn more about our members, check out our directory!

30 Years & over

Nob Hill Foods

Rapazzini Winery/The Garlic Shoppe

Taco Bell

Rosso’s Furniture

Vanni & Humphrey, CPAs

Kaiser Permanente

Princevalle Pet Hospital

Gilroy Exchange Club

Greenstreak Landscaping

20 Years & over

Blossom Valley Foods

California Rodeo

Coldwell Banker, Gilroy

Excel Auto Body & Paint

Simmitri

van Keulen & van Keulen

Aitken Associates Landscape Architects

Banning’s Upholstery

Vanni Properties

10 Years & over

COMP Connection

Bruce’s Tire

Jane’s Answering Service

5 Years and over

Somark L.P.

Eden Housing

Ira B. Marshall, Reg. Investment Advisor

Motel 6

Patterson Media

 

Gilroy Chamber Opposes Massive Tax Increase Recommended by Governor and Legislators

The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce along with the CalChamber and other business organizations oppose AB 1400 and ACA 11 for numerous reasons including the tax increases to individuals and businesses; negative effects on business attraction and economic development; delays, and potential denials in medical care; not to mention the increased exodus of residents and businesses already leaving California. Below is an article from CalChamber regarding AB 1400 and ACA 11.

The California Chamber of Commerce has tagged AB 1400 (Kalra, Lee and Santiago) and ACA 11 (Kalra and Lee) as its first Job Killer bills of 2022. The bills would create and finance a new single payer health care system called CalCare.

“Single payer health care is not free health care,” said CalChamber Policy Advocate Preston Young. “AB 1400 and ACA 11 would not only ruin quality health care delivery in the state but create the largest tax increase in state history. Successfully standing up a new function that would be twice the size of the existing state budget is highly doubtful, given the state’s recent experience with benefit delays and massive fraud in the unemployment system.”

According to a letter sent yesterday by CalChamber to the bills’ authors, if ACA 11 were enacted, California’s top personal income tax rate for individuals and sole proprietors—already the highest in the country—would increase by 2.5%. Additionally, ACA 11 would implement a payroll tax of 1% of the aggregate amount of wages or other compensation paid by the employer to resident employees in excess of $49,900, and a gross receipts tax of 2.3% on businesses with more than $2 million in gross revenues.

“Certainly, the kinds of tax increases necessary to finance AB 1400 would detrimentally impact California businesses and discourage companies from growing or relocating here,” said Young. “It would likely lead to significant layoffs or relocations as existing businesses and employers would be forced to cut costs to sustain the added new tax burden.”

Proponents of the measure recently indicated that the cost of tax increases required for this single payer health care to be between $160–$170 billion. Prior versions of similar single payer proposals were estimated to cost more than $400 billion, including existing state and federal tax contributions.

California voters have twice rejected a government-run health care system at the ballot box—in 1994 and 2004.

Currently, 94% of Californians have health care coverage in some fashion. A majority of the uninsured population is comprised of undocumented individuals. Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal addresses this very issue and would make California the first state to offer health care coverage for all income-eligible residents regardless of immigration status.

South County Wastewater Readings Show a Decline in Virus

Article by the Gilroy Dispatch

Santa Clara County Public Health data shows that the seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases stands at 4,231, the highest it has been since the onset of the pandemic nearly two years ago and double the previous record in January 2021.

However, preliminary data shows deaths in the county are occurring at a far less frequent rate, with five reported from Dec. 21-29, compared to 181 during the same period in 2020. Hospitalizations, at 443, are a little more than half of the number during the peak in January 2021.

Samples of wastewater in South County show some encouraging signs, as the quantity of SARS-CoV-2 genes, the virus that causes Covid-19, has taken a dive since reaching a peak on Jan. 6, and are on par with levels taken on Dec. 30.

Researchers have determined that as virus levels rise or fall in the region’s wastewater, so too do the number of reported cases.

Where There Is Darkness, Let There Be Light

Article Submitted by John Taft, Gilroy Downtown Business Association Board Member

Ever wonder about all the dark buildings downtown that are boarded up and empty?

Ever think the economic and business conditions downtown must not be very good?

Ever think the property owners have mismanaged the property or don’t care about downtown?

Ever wonder why the City of Gilroy doesn’t do anything about it?

All good questions that deserve an answer.

The simple answer is that these dark buildings cannot be occupied because they do not have sufficient electric power available to allow them to be occupied.  While the answer is relatively simple; the underlying cause is complex, and an unintended consequence of decisions made more than fifteen years ago. The affected buildings were classified as unreinforced masonry buildings by the City of Gilroy in compliance with state law in 1986. In 2006, the City of Gilroy ordered the URM buildings emptied and prohibited occupancy unless the retrofit was completed to force the retrofit efforts. They also instructed PG&E to disconnect service to the buildings to prevent unauthorized utilization or habitation by the homeless.  As the retrofit efforts were completed, the property owners requested the power to be restored and herein lies the problem.

Over the years, the alleyway had become so crowded with underground services that it is very difficult to comply with both PG&E and the City of Gilroy policies and best practices. Coupled with the new businesses’ increased power needs, placing the required underground transformers in Gourmet Alley is not possible. The good news is that by working with PG&E and the property owners, the Gilroy Downtown Business Association has tentatively reached an agreement with PG&E to allow multiple properties to locate a shared transformer on private property. Now there is a path forward and the community will see many changes downtown in 2022.

Single-Payer Healthcare Makes a California Comeback

Article by the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal

In case you think falling popularity has Democrats questioning their progressive agenda, guess again. California Democrats are busy reviving government-run, single-payer health care, despite its failure in the state five years ago.

Gov. Gavin Newsom campaigned on single-payer in 2018, and it passed the state Senate in 2017. But it collapsed in the more conservative Assembly because it didn’t include funding to pay for its estimated $400 billion annual cost. It also would have required Medicare and Medicaid waivers from the Trump Health and Human Services Department. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon called the bill “woefully incomplete.”

Now progressives are completing it with gargantuan tax increases. Their revived legislation would replace Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance with a state-run system and eliminate co-pays, deductibles and premiums. Californians would also be entitled to an expansive list of benefits including vision, dental, hearing and long-term care.

A board of bureaucrats would control costs—i.e., ration care. Deliberations about rationing decisions would be concealed from the public. The legislation “imposes a limitation on the public’s right of access to the meetings of public bodies” in order to “protect private, confidential, and proprietary information.” While Californians would technically be entitled to a “free” knee replacement, they might not get one if bureaucrats consider them too old—but the state won’t let people know that’s the reason.

 

Santa Clara County’s Top 15 Taxpayers

Just released! The Santa Clara County Office of the Assessor is excited to share the 2021-2022 Annual Report. In the report you will find comprehensive statistical analysis of the local property assessment roll. 

The Assessor’s Annual Report is an important source of information for anyone seeking insights into real estate trends in Santa Clara County. Find out who the Top 15 taxpayers for Santa Clara County are on page 6, or the surprising impact of COVID-19 on assessed values on page 20. If you want to know which city had the biggest net assessment growth, look to page 10! Click on this link to the Assessor’s website to view an online magazine version or download a PDF copy of the report. 

Watch a video of Assessor Larry Stone sharing his insight about this year’s report.

Have questions about this or other property assessment topics? The Assessor’s Office customer service team is available to help. For a list of contacts, frequently asked questions, and useful property assessment resources, visit www.sccassessor.org   

January 10, 2022

“Testing” the New Year in GUSD

Article Submitted by Melanie Corona, Public Information Officer, Gilroy Unified School District

Welcome to 2022!  GUSD schools returned from Winter Break on January 3 and 4, and so far, our schools are one of the safest places to be in the midst of another major surge of COVID19 in our community.  We are doing everything we can to keep our schools safe, which includes:

  • All HVAC systems on our campuses have been professionally serviced and filters are changed every three months. They are on all day, starting two hours before staff and students arrive, and stay on until two hours after they leave.
  • Frequent hand washing for staff and students is emphasized and scheduled throughout the day.
  • While on our campuses, everyone is required to wear masks indoors. We recommend that masks also be worn outdoors as well.
  • Custodians are cleaning frequently touched surfaces daily.
  • Several vaccination clinics were held in conjunction with the Public Health Department for the Gilroy community. More are planned for 2022.

On January 3, 4, and 8, district staff distributed over 11,400 COVID19 antigen test kits to families. These rapid test kits were provided by the State of California to all public school districts for distribution to students, and have proven to be a useful tool in the detection of the COVID19 virus with the goal of keeping our campuses safe for staff and students.

Finally, Bay Area Community Health is hosting a COVID19 vaccine clinic at Glen View Elementary School on Wednesday, January 12, from 2:30-6:00 pm.  The clinic is located in the MPR, which is can be accessed at W. Ninth Street between Princevalle and Hanna Streets.  Vaccines are available for any eligible person 5 and older, and boosters are available for eligible people 12 and older.  Children under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent.  Walk-ups are accepted but appointments are highly recommended.  ​You can register online: https://bit.ly/GlenviewES.

 

Gilroy Property Values Continue Rise, Despite Pandemic Woes

Article Submitted By: STAFF REPORT, Gilroy Dispatch

Property values in Gilroy grew at a rate near the county’s average in 2020, rising by 4.45% to $10,265,011,012, according to the 2021-22 Assessor’s Annual Report released by Santa Clara County Tax Assessor Larry Stone’s office on Dec. 13.

Morgan Hill, meanwhile, grew at the second highest rate in the county at 5.63% to $11,480,439,666.

The 2021-22 Santa Clara County assessment roll, including all real and business property, grew by $25.4 billion to a record $576.9 billion, a 4.6 percent increase over the prior year, according to Stone. The annual assessment roll reflects the total net assessed value of all real and business property in the county as of Jan. 1, 2021.

“Looking forward to the next lien date, Jan. 1, 2022, the outlook for a robust recovery appears extremely promising,” Stone wrote in the report. “The pandemic will likely remain an obstacle, but vaccination rates in Santa Clara County are the best in the nation, our business and community leadership has demonstrated a strong and solid commitment to our success.”

The largest drivers of growth this year were changes of ownership and new construction, contributing $14 billion and $6.69 billion, respectively, he wrote. However, new construction declined by 21 percent over the previous year, due to work stoppages and labor and material shortages brought on by the pandemic.

The report provides an executive summary, in addition to detailed countywide information about Santa Clara County’s Assessment Roll, and compares this year’s assessment roll to prior year assessment information. It also provides a snapshot of the market value of transactions between Jan. 1, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2020, a year heavily impacted by Covid-19.

In addition to comparing the 2021-2022 assessment year to the prior year, the report contains charts chronicling the economic boom that has occurred over the past 10 years.

Additionally, the report provides assessment roll data about each of the county’s 15 cities and the unincorporated portions of the county. It contains assessment data summarized by the type of properties and their assessed values separated, not only by city, but also by school districts. Finally, the report provides a comparison of Santa Clara County’s roll data to other Bay Area counties and California’s largest counties.

“The Annual Report, initially published in 1999, has become an increasingly popular and useful tool for citizens and policymakers,” Stone said.

The Assessor’s Annual Report is available online at sccassessor.org.

One of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development core competencies is to act as a convener for businesses who want to come to Gilroy or stay in Gilroy, and to represent the business community’s interests at all levels of government. As part of our mission, we work closely with the City of Gilroy’s Planning Division.

Want to stay up to date on the current projects happening in Gilroy? The City of Gilroy Planning Department maintains a “Planning Current Project Log” with four different levels in the planning process: currently under consideration, approved but not implemented, permitted for construction and completed. You can find this list of residential and commercial projects by visiting the City’s website: http://www.cityofgilroy.org/298/Development-Activity-Projects

Yes, You Can Have COVID-19 But Test Negative

Article by Lisa M. Krieger, San Jose Mercury News

Rapid antigen tests are quick, cheap and easy. But a new study suggests they can also be wrong, particularly about omicron.

Cupertino native Nick LaRocca found that out the hard way, accidentally infecting a friend after trusting test results that were negative.

“I tried to do everything the right way. I thought everything was good, even though I felt really crappy,” said vaccinated LaRocca, 36. “And I got one of my friends sick. That’s the last thing I wanted. … I was literally walking around infecting people not even knowing it.”

In the new study, antigen tests — such as Quidel’s QuickVue and Abbott’s BinaxNOW, which can be easily used at home – missed detection of COVID-19’s omicron variant during the first early days of infection.

The findings, if confirmed, urge against over-reliance on a tool that has become the cornerstone of reopening in-person businesses, schools and social gatherings. While important, testing should be just one part of a broader preventive strategy of masking, good ventilation and small gatherings, said experts.

The unsettling results are based on an analysis of a small number of workers who took daily tests at various settings, including an unnamed San Francisco corporation and New York City’s Broadway theaters.

The study found that 30 people tested negative using nasal-swab rapid tests during the first two to three days of infection. But the virus was detected in those same individuals using the slower, more expensive and more accurate saliva-based PCR test.

In general, people are less contagious during this very early stage. But the study found that in at least four cases, people unwittingly transmitted the virus to others.

“The policy implication is that rapid antigen tests may not be as fit-for-purpose in routine workplace screening to prevent asymptomatic spread of omicron, compared to prior variants,” concluded the study, conducted by the Covid-19 Sports and Society Working Group and Infectious Economics in New York, a consultant to businesses that are trying to keep staff safe. Published on the preprint server bioRxiv, the study has not been peer reviewed.

Although anecdotal reports of inaccurate results from rapid antigen tests abound, the study offers the first real-world proof that the tests lag in the ability to find infection — and supports lab work by the National Institutes of Health that discovered that the omicron variant is better at evading detection than previous variants.

“Early data suggests that antigen tests do detect the omicron variant but may have reduced sensitivity,” according to a Dec. 28 announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The new study doesn’t look at the accuracy of the test when used later in illness – for example, whether you’re still infectious days after recovering from symptoms.

It’s the latest anxiety for Californians trying to make decisions about safety, even as tests remain in short supply.

“If confirmed, that’ll render the strategy of testing before a high-risk encounter — ‘let’s test before we visit grandma’ — less reliable,” according to Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at UC San Francisco.

When her vaccinated son suffered from flu-like symptoms last week, Ayesha Charagulla, of San Jose, used a home test kit distributed by his school — and got negative results. But a PCR test later confirmed his COVID diagnosis.

“Luckily, we had isolated him from the beginning. But what percentage of students are going to school who are positive for COVID not knowing that they have it?” she said. “I am concerned whether these take-home tests are really reliable.”

During her illness in the days before Christmas, 22-year-old vaccinated Brittany Prock, of Campbell, was puzzled by three different test results. One rapid antigen test showed a very faint line, suggesting infection. She was relieved when another antigen test, taken only one day later, was negative. But a PCR test confirmed infection.

Marya Cunha’s tests also yielded conflicting results. Her results from a test distributed by a Santa Clara school test site were negative, but two different brands told her she was positive. She worried about exposing her mother, who is immunocompromised.

“The school districts are paying for these tests…but it’s confusing,” she said. “And frustrating, not knowing what to trust. I had a card saying I could go places. What’s the right thing to do?”

In Vallejo, Andrew Martinez had the opposite problem: a “false positive” test result. He spent New Years Eve alone in an isolated bedroom, listening as his family tooted celebratory party horns. And he cancelled $400 worth of work appointments. But a later PCR test showed he was negative.

Abbott Labs stands by its BinaxNOW test, saying that its studies prove that the test can detect the omicron variant as well as all other variants and the original SARS-CoV-2 strain. According to a statement by Quidel, its QuickVue test performs as well with omicron as previous variants.

Antigen tests are excellent at detecting people who are most contagious, concluded a new pre-print study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard. But accuracy declines in people with low levels of virus.

Immunologist Dr. Michael Mina, a longtime advocate of rapid tests, says the tests work when it matters most — when people are highly infectious.

Scientists are now trying to determine why the tests are missing some cases. Compared to other variants, omicron has been shown to infect faster and more efficiently in our bronchi, the two large tubes that carry air from the windpipe to our lungs, so it may be better detected by a saliva swab than a nasal swab.

In the early days of the pandemic, frequent testing could have dramatically altered the course of the pandemic, said University of Colorado Boulder computer scientist Daniel Larremore, who studies COVID testing. “That virus was a different virus — and controlling it was a different proposition,” he said.

But now, faced with the more transmissible omicron variant, other solutions are needed, said Larremore. “That (testing) strategy is simply less effective now, which means we really do need to focus on ‘layering’ with other interventions.”

The new study “strongly suggests that we will be unable to effectively test our way out of the current surge, even if we each had a week’s supply of rapid tests on the counter,” Larremore said.

“Just like wearing a mask, smaller group sizes or better ventilation, antigen tests are part of a layered approach to mitigating omicron’s spread,” he said. “While they don’t work 100% of the time — and nothing short of complete isolation does — they still help us decrease transmission.”

California Dems Revive Universal Health Care Bill

Article by Adam Beam, Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — What could be the nation’s first universal health care system found new life on Thursday after California Democrats proposed steep tax hikes to pay for it, prompting strong opposition from insurers, doctors and Republicans at the start of an election year.

Progressives in California’s Democratic-dominated state Legislature have long called for a universal health care system to replace the one that mostly relies on private insurance companies. But their plans have often stalled over questions about how to pay for it in a state with nearly 40 million residents.

Assemblyman Ash Kalra proposed an amendment to the state Constitution that would impose an annual tax of 2.3% on businesses that have at least $2 million in annual revenue, plus a 1.25% tax on payroll for companies with at least 50 employees and a 1% tax for those employers who pay employees at least $49,900.

The plan also includes a series of tax hikes on wealthier people, starting with a 0.5% levy on the income of people who make at least $149,509 per year and ending at a 2.5% income tax for people who make more than $2.48 million per year. The California Taxpayers Association, which opposes the bill, says the plan would increase tax collections by $163 billion per year.

The tax increases have a long way to go before they could become law. First, at least two-thirds of the state Legislature would have to approve them. Then voters would have to OK them in a statewide referendum, possibly this November.

But introducing the tax increases cleared the way for state lawmakers to begin moving a separate bill that would create a universal health care system and set its rules. Democratic leaders scheduled a hearing on that bill next week. And Assemblyman Jim Wood, the influential chair of the Assembly Health Committee, announced he would vote for it — a good sign the bill will make it to the Assembly floor.

Kalra said California, where Democrats dominate state government, “can show the rest of the country how to take care of one another.”

“Will it be easy? Of course not. There is a reason this has been tried and failed many times before,” Kalra said. ”The status quo is powerful and those who benefit from it are extraordinarily wealthy and influential. But we are not here to represent the upholders of the status quo. We are here to represent those who are suffering.”

Democrats hold all statewide offices in California and have a super majority in the state Legislature, meaning they can pass anything they want without Republican votes. But to pay for this universal health care system, Democrats will have to convince voters to approve the tax increases. Republicans argued that won’t be easy given the state’s existing problems.

“It’s a shame that somebody’s bad political calculus could force 40 million Californians into a healthcare system run by the same bureaucrats who can’t figure out how to schedule appointments at the DMV or get unemployment checks issued,” said GOP Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham of San Luis Obispo County.

The bill that would create the universal health care system faces a tight deadline. It must pass the state Assembly by Jan. 31 to have a chance at passing this year. The deadline for the other bill — the one that would pay for everything — is months away.

Universal health care has been debated for decades in the United States, most recently during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary during the campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. But it has never come close to passing in Congress. State lawmakers in Vermont have tried and failed to implement their own universal health care system. And the New York state Legislature has considered a similar plan.

The plan already faces fierce opposition from some of the biggest lobbying groups in the state. The California Chamber of Commerce, the California Hospital Association, the California Medical Association and the California Taxpayers Association all condemned the plan on Thursday and urged lawmakers to reject it.

“This measure would add to the cost of living in California and lead to job losses, without any guarantee that the $163 billion in new taxes would benefit anyone,” said Robert Gutierrez, president of the California Taxpayers Association.

Protect California Health Care, a coalition that includes the California Medical Association, which represents doctors, and the California Hospital Association, warned the plan would remove “any choice for anyone who might want to select private coverage or opt out.”

“The cost to Californians is unfathomable,” spokesman Ned Wigglesworth said.

Kalra said he knows insurers, some health providers and business groups will focus on the tax increase to try and defeat the plan. But he said “what those groups don’t want to tell you is how much they are charging you right now for health care.”

Kalra said the average employer pays 9.9% of payroll for health care, a figure he said would fall to 1.25% under his plan. He said the average worker making $75,000 per year pays 2.5% of their paycheck to health care, or about $1,875. His plan, he said, would drop that to $250 per year with no deductibles or copays.

“I think that is a hell of a bargain for employers and an even bigger bargain for the workers,” he said.

Wood, the Democratic chair of the Assembly Health Committee, said he still has concerns about the plan.

He said it won’t solve all of the state’s problems. But in announcing he would vote for the bill, he said he echoed the growing frustration of his constituents he said are angry at insurance companies that “tell people what they can and cannot have” and “physicians (that) do not want their decisions or fees questioned by anyone.”

“We have a plethora of health care industry players that I have worked with over the years and, at times, we have made progress with their collaboration and support,” Wood said. “But my experience is that when they push to maintain the status quo, they have lost their way in supporting Californians who depend on them to keep them healthy.”

January 3, 2022

Visit Gilroy Sponsors Social Media Influencers

Article Submitted by:  Visit Gilroy

Visit Gilroy was pleased to welcome three social media influencers to Gilroy this fall. We sponsored these digital influencers between September and November of 2021. Our marketing team at Articulate Solutions helped arrange their itineraries with our local businesses. They visited various Gilroy attractions, hotels, restaurants, shops, and wineries and shared firsthand experiences with their followers. Their social media platforms included Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and their personal websites and blogs, and Visit Gilroy reshared some postings as well.

The influencers were carefully selected based on their experience, the number and types of followers, and their professionalism. Their combined total of reaches (number of people reached by their posts) was just under 24,000 readers. The average cost per reach was $0.14. We saw the most success with Palm Trees and Pellegrino, a San Diego, California influencer, who gave us the most content for the cost at only $.02 per reach.

Our influencers highlighted Gilroy attractions, including Gilroy Gardens and the Gilroy Ostrich Farm. They dined at a variety of our local restaurants, sampled wine at several of our wineries located on the Santa Clara Valley Wine Trail, shopped at the Gilroy Premium Outlets and our downtown stores, and stayed overnight at our local hotel. Visit Gilroy is so appreciative of all the partners who welcomed these influencers to their businesses and attractions. By highlighting what each of them have to offer this provided the stories/images/videos the influencers shared with thousands of their followers.

Visit Gilroy will be vetting additional digital influencers in 2022 with a goal of inviting one every quarter to visit our destination.

New Health Order Issued for Santa Clara County

The County of Santa Clara Health Officer issued a health order requiring up-to-date COVID-19 vaccination (i.e., both fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 if eligible for a booster) for workers in certain higher-risk settings in light of the rapid surge in cases due to the Omicron variant.

The Health Officer urges all businesses and governmental entities and individuals to follow the recommendations set forth below:

    1. All eligible persons are strongly urged to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 as soon as possible.
    2. Unless everyone is wearing face masks at all times for the duration of the gathering, individuals should not gather indoors in groups of more than 10 people from outside their household.
    3. Businesses and governmental entities should immediately implement mandatory vaccination requirements for all personnel that require Up-to-Date vaccination as quickly as possible, subject only to the limited exemptions required by law.
    4. Businesses and governmental entities should move operations and activities outdoors where possible, where there is significantly less risk of COVID-19 transmission.  Where this is not possible, ventilation should be maximized.
    5. Businesses and governmental entities should prohibit all personnel who are not Up-to-Date with their vaccination from engaging in any work-related travel to places with rates of COVID-19 higher than the Bay Area region or where community vaccination rates are below the average in the Bay Area region.
    6. Businesses and governmental entities should require all personnel not Up-to-Date with their vaccination to obtain frequent testing for COVID-19 consistent with current local, state, and federal recommendations.  Any person, vaccinated or unvaccinated, who has any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should get tested immediately.
    7. Businesses that serve the public, especially those with activities that require patrons to remove their face mask to engage in the business (e.g., restaurants and bars), should require their patrons to be Up-to-Date on their vaccination and show proof of Up-to-Date vaccination prior to entry.

Please click here to read the full order.

How Will California’s Workplace Laws Change in 2022?

BY MARGOT ROOSEVELT STAFF WRITER , Los Angeles Times

DEC. 31, 2021 5 AM PT

Heading into 2022 — and a potential third year of the COVID-19 pandemic — California officials faced a familiar-feeling dilemma.

Help businesses recover from an economic roller coaster by quashing burdensome new mandates?

Or rescue workers with paid sick leave, higher wages and crackdowns on corporate bad behavior?

Given the devastating effects of the last two years on both workers and businesses, the answer had to be all of the above.

Labor advocates point to new measures taking effect in January to toughen enforcement of workplace health and safety rules, outlaw piecework in the garment industry and rein in unsafe speed quotas at warehouses.

“The pandemic created a new consciousness that many men and women go to work every single day and take big risks,” said state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles). “Not just first responders but grocery workers, farmworkers, truckers and garment workers who make protective masks.”

On the other hand, “A lot of proposed mandates on businesses were stopped,” said Jennifer Barrera, president of the California Chamber of Commerce. “There was a level of sensitivity of imposing too much on employers when they were challenged because of the pandemic.”

Just two of the 25 measures the chamber labeled as “job killers” — those most opposed by large employers — made it to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk: the garment worker measure, which he signed, and a bill allowing farmworkers to vote by mail in a union election, which he vetoed.

One of the most far-reaching initiatives goes back four years, and is gradually boosting California’s hourly minimum wage to more than twice the federal $7.25 level. Beginning Jan. 1, the statewide floor rises to $15 for employers with 26 or more employees and to $14 for those with 25 or fewer.

Many cities have raised pay even faster, including Los Angeles, where a $15 minimum wage for all employers took effect in July.

Among the measures enacted over the last year, here are some of the most significant:

Paid sick leave: Californians are guaranteed just three days of paid sick leave for any illness — a level widely deemed inadequate during a pandemic. A bill boosting it to five days failed to gain traction, but a limited COVID-related measure was renewed in April, Senate Bill 95, which gave workers two weeks of paid leave if they were infected or needed to care for sick relatives or for children kept out of school.

Fiercely opposed by businesses, it expired Oct. 1, along with federal tax credits that softened the burden.

Under a separate California Division of Occupational Safety and Health emergency rule, renewed Dec. 16, some workers can be paid for 10 days if they get sick or exposed to the virus and must therefore be excluded from the workplace. But leave to care for sick relatives or out-of-school children isn’t covered, and they don’t get paid if the employer can show they were infected outside their job.

With Omicron raging, paid sick leave will be among the first contentious legislative battles next year. As hundreds of thousands of workers remain unvaccinated, sick leave may become ensnared in the politics of vaccination mandates.

“If an individual doesn’t choose to get vaccinated or boosted, should they be having two weeks of time off?” Barrera asked. “We need to take that into consideration.”

Workplace safety: An explosion of COVID-19 infections across large companies such as supermarket chains, meatpackers, fast-food outlets and warehouses highlighted the weak penalties of California’s worker safety laws. And workplace safety agency Cal/OSHA, with just one inspector per 103,000 workers, has said it is too understaffed to visit 80% of sites where workers complain of safety violations.

Senate Bill 606, mirroring a similar federal law, allows California inspectors to issue “enterprise-wide” citations to companies with a pattern of violations, despite not having visited every work site in person.

Under earlier rules, an employer with multiple workplace outbreaks was typically cited for only a single violation. Traditionally, Cal/OSHA has preferred to negotiate with employers rather than issue fines. But low penalties failed to deter companies from flouting the rules, said Sen. Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), the bill’s author.

The new law requires the agency to label some employers as “egregious” when, for instance, workers are killed or are hospitalized as a result of “willful” safety violations. The agency must stack citations for each affected worker with fines of up to $134,334 each.

“You had large employers just ignoring the public health guidance on social distancing, masking and other measures,” said Eduardo Martinez, legislative director of the California Labor Federation. “As a result, a lot of workers got sick and many of them died.”

But SB 606 applies to all workplace safety situations — not just those involving the coronavirus.

“We come through a pandemic, where the majority of our business community is hanging on for dear life,” said Assemblyman Heath Flora (R-Ripon), who opposed the bill. “COVID was used to push an agenda that labor groups have been unable to get done before.”

Corporate discrimination: When employers settle workers’ claims of discrimination or harassment, they traditionally have sought to protect their reputations by forcing victims to sign confidentiality agreements before collecting severance or settlement payments.

In 2018, as the #MeToo movement gathered strength, the Golden State outlawed nondisclosure agreements to settle most cases of sexual discrimination, harassment or assault. Backers cited abuses by powerful executives, including producer Harvey Weinstein and Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes, cases in which secret agreements may have enabled harassment to continue.

Now Senate Bill 331, labeled the Silenced No More Act, expands protections, outlawing confidentiality agreements for settlements involving any form of discrimination or harassment, including those based on race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, medical conditions and disability.

The new law was spurred in part by Ifeoma Ozoma, a Black executive at Pinterest, who complained about race and sex discrimination at the company and was forced to sign an agreement to remain silent as a condition of settling her claims.

“SB 331 will empower survivors to speak out — if they so wish,” said the author, Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino). “They can hold perpetrators accountable and hopefully prevent abusers from continuing to torment other workers.”

A coalition of 13 trade associations led by the Chamber of Commerce initially argued the bill would hurt workers by discouraging employers from offering severance payments. But opponents stood down after several amendments softened the bill’s effects, including a provision ensuring employers’ ability to protect trade secrets.

Garment workers: Southern California is home to more than 45,000 garment workers, the most in any U.S. state. They have traditionally been paid by the piece — 8 cents to stitch a sleeve, for instance, or 14 cents to attach a label. Depending on how fast they work, the pay often fails to equal the minimum wage.

Giant retailers such as Ross Dress for Less, T.J. Maxx and Forever 21 have set wholesale prices for their manufacturers so low that subcontractors can’t make a profit if they pay legal wages, according to federal investigators. And garment workers, many of whom are undocumented, are often reluctant to report unsafe conditions, according to Los Angeles’ nonprofit Garment Worker Center.

Senate Bill 62, spearheaded by Durazo, holds retailers jointly liable along with their suppliers for wage theft and other labor violations in their supply chains, even when garments are made for multiple brands. And it requires manufacturers to pay by the hour, outlawing the piece-rate system.

In signing the bill, Newsom said it protects “marginalized low-wage workers, many of whom are women of color and immigrants…. We are committed to having their backs as we work to build a stronger, more inclusive economy.”

But retailers warn that the measure could move more jobs to Latin America and Asia, where wages are far lower. Companies are “now going to be held liable for any wage and hour violations even though they may not have had control over them,” the Chamber of Commerce’s Barrera said.

A broader issue is the growing trend of imposing joint liability across ever more industries. Earlier California bills made construction companies and businesses using janitorial, gardening and security services jointly responsible for subcontractor violations. And a proposed bill to make fast-food companies jointly liable for franchisees’ infractions is expected to spur a legislative battle in 2022.

Warehouse workers: The pandemic turbocharged California’s warehouse workforce, which has doubled to more than 200,000 employees in five years, as consumers switched to ordering products online.

With Asian imports flowing through Southern California ports, the Inland Empire is now the nation’s largest warehouse center and Amazon its largest private employer.

Amid reports of skyrocketing injury rates, especially driven by Amazon’s “time off task” high-tech surveillance and speed quotas, Newsom signed the nation’s first law regulating workplace productivity controlled through artificial intelligence, a fast-spreading trend.

Assembly Bill 701, written by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), outlaws warehouses’ use of algorithms that disrupt rest periods, bathroom breaks or compliance with health and safety laws. Companies must disclose production quotas and work speed metrics in writing to employees and government agencies, along with penalties for failing to meet them.

The law protects workers from retaliation for reporting unsafe quotas and allows them to seek redress in court.

“Hardworking warehouse employees who have helped sustain us during these unprecedented times should not have to risk injury or face punishment as a result of exploitative quotas that violate basic health and safety,” Newsom said in signing the bill.

Business groups opposed the measure. “There are already laws on the books dealing with rest breaks, bathroom and meal breaks,” Flora said. “This law opens a whole new avenue for frivolous lawsuits.”

Recall rights: During the pandemic, as tourism dried up, business travel was curtailed and office employees worked remotely, hundreds of thousands of workers were laid off from hotels, janitorial companies, airport concessions, sports arenas and concert halls.

Unite Here and the Service Employees International Union, which represent many workers in those industries, warned that companies would use the pandemic as an excuse to replace veteran employees with cheaper workers. They pushed for “a right of recall.”

Senate Bill 95, which took effect in April, requires companies in those sectors, once they begin hiring after pandemic-related layoffs, to offer jobs to their former workers based on seniority before replacing them.

Similar measures are in force in the city and county of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Pasadena, Glendale and Long Beach.

Food delivery: Assembly Bill 286 forbids food delivery companies such as DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, Instacart and UberEats from retaining tips that were meant to go to their workers.

The measure comes in the wake of lawsuits against tech platforms accused of stealing tips. In a court settlement last year, DoorDash paid $2.5 million for using customer tips to fund its base operations in the District of Columbia. Point Pickup — which delivers for Walmart, Kroger and other firms — has also been accused of dipping into customers’ tips to cover guaranteed pay for its gig workers.

In February, Amazon paid $61.7 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it withheld tips from 140,000 Flex drivers nationwide.

Under AB 286, delivery companies have to disclose their fees to customers. They will be prohibited from marking up the prices of food and beverages they deliver — a practice that restaurants say has cut into their slim profits, even as the pandemic has crippled their businesses.

Disabled workers: By law, disabled workers may be paid less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Advocates say the practice encourages hiring of workers with mental or physical disabilities, but opponents call it unfair exploitation.

Under a new law, Senate Bill 639, no new sub-minimum-wage licenses will be issued for employers beginning in January. Existing licenses may not be renewed after 2024.

Sheltered workshops such as those operated by Goodwill Industries employ more than 5,000 Californians with disabilities. Some workers are paid as little as $2 an hour, said Durazo, the bill’s author.

In recent years, Alaska, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon and Texas have made it illegal to pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage.

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