It’s stressful enough that governments in the midst of the coronavirus scare have ordered many businesses to close, probably pushing many over the cliff. But last week the Los Angeles City Council started a process to instruct businesses the order in which they can lay off their employees, if they must. And then the order in which they must rehire them.
That was too much for some. “How dare you (try to) put ridiculous, burdensome, additional regulations and restrictions on the backs of small business owners in Los Angeles,” one frustrated business owner wrote to the city councilmembers. “How many weeks have you gone without your paycheck to keep employees paid? And now you think regulating how a business needs to handle (itself) during this crisis is DISGUSTING.”
That was sent by Joann Roth Oseary. She owns a catering and event planning business in Tarzana that has been upended by the coronavirus scare. Soon after her email was sent on Tuesday, Tom Manzo, head of the California Business and Industrial Alliance sent a follow-up message to city councilmembers saying “please understand this is the frustration of business owners (who are) dealing with enough issues as it is.”
He praised Oseary as an award-winning business owner who donates to many charities and is humble about her accomplishments. Addressing the city councilmembers, Manzo wrote: “I hope … (you) reflect and think how your actions could lead to someone like Joann to send an email like this to you. We feel business owners are no longer respected, they are taken advantage of, and quite frankly they feel they are not even listened to anymore.”
They are not alone. Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, put out a statement with this headline: “L.A. City Council Wants to Run Businesses During Economic Crisis.”
The reason for all this ire: City elected officials, as of last week anyway, were considering drafting an ordinance that would require those businesses that must lay off employees to dismiss them based on seniority and then must offer to hire back those employees in order, assuming the business survives the economic calamity.
Look, laying off employees based on seniority may be a perfectly fine method for some businesses. But that doesn’t matter. It’s not the public sector’s role to instruct the private sector how to operate. The business has the right to decide how and whom it must dismiss, just as it has the right to decide what kind of customers it want to target and how it should arrange the office furniture.
“This is absolutely ridiculous,” Waldman wrote. “It is never easy for a business to lay off their employees. But that decision needs to be made by the business itself, not politicians. Whether it is based on seniority, efficiency, merit or cost, it should be up to the business.”
Because of the way the city of Los Angeles is conducting itself, the gulf between it and the business community is widening quickly in this crisis.
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The Valley area is blessed with some truly stalwart leaders. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough of them. That’s why it is particularly regretful that we lost two standouts in the last month – both of whom left us too early.
Gary Thomas was only 61 when he died March 6 during a hospitalization for a respiratory ailment. He was a founder of the Valley Economic Alliance and for 10 years chaired the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley among numerous other civic involvements. He won the Valley’s prestigious Fernando Award in 2011 for his volunteerism.
What stood out: After Thomas died, several influential people offered praise with tears in their eyes and voices cracking. It was clear their loss was deep and personal. Thomas was a leader other leaders looked up to.
We also lost David Adelman, who was only 64 when he died of pancreatic cancer on March 22. A successful Valley lawyer, Adelman was particularly fond of serving nonprofits. He chaired the nonprofit committee of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association (and was a former chair of VICA). He was a longtime board member of New Horizons, which serves mentally challenged adults. He was particularly proud that he and his wife, Cindy Rakowitz, created Fit 4 the Cause, a nonprofit that helps physically, emotionally and socially challenged people improve their lives through fitness and nutrition.
Adelman hid an artist’s soul. He once told me his passion was creative writing, but he kept private about it. He also was a big fan of rap music. And I loved his dry wit, often self-effacing.
I wish we had more Gary Thomases and David Adelmans.
Charles Crumpley is editor and publisher of the Business Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.