More about the West Coast employer groups’ new recovery coalition

Earlier today we wrote briefly about the new recovery coalition formed by West Coast business groups, including the Washington Roundtable and Association of Washington Business. Here’s more about the effort.

The Roundtable writes,

A coalition of employer groups from Washington, Oregon and California pledged their support for the recently formed Western States Pact and offered to work with the governors of the three states to assist in reopening their economies in line with the easing of Stay Home, Stay Healthy restrictions and Stay at Home orders. Just as the governors came together to form a shared vision for reopening businesses and controlling the spread of COVID-19, the leaders of six statewide associations representing manufacturers and businesses in the three states are united behind a set of shared principles.

Leaders from the associations shared those principles in a joint letter to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. The organizations include AWB, the California Business Roundtable, the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, the Oregon Business Council, Oregon Business & Industry and the Washington Roundtable.

From the letter:

Business wants to work with you, collectively as a region and individually in each of our states, as we execute a plan for economic recovery. We appreciate the principles you laid out for your restart plan and we would like to work with you in this planning stage.

The letter announces key principles to guide the recovery. We’ll list the bullets, read the whole thing for more detail. Recognizing that the pandemic has played out in different ways across industry sectors and regions, the business leaders emphasize collaboration, flexibility, and clarity.

Business must help lead the recovery. We know that the economy won’t be restarted with the flip of a switch, that we should plan for a phased-in restart of the economy…Business leaders are eager to work with you to talk through how a restart can be accomplished in different segments of our diverse economies. There are many issues, like workers compensation, liability issues, and a host of other challenges that deserve our first-hand perspective to better inform you about the challenges that lay ahead…

Expectations must be clear. We do not expect to return to business as usual. The “new normal” in every workplace, including consumer-facing businesses, will include social distancing, crowd management and infection prevention. Businesses need to understand what will be expected of them now, so that we can begin implementing those changes and be ready to begin the process of reopening. Our goal should be bringing our employees back to work, and customers back to businesses, and providing confidence that they will be safe.

Employer concerns must be resolved. As we implement a return-to-work strategy, employers in our states will be called upon to execute new practices, including interacting with employees in ways previously considered outside the bounds of a worker/employer relationship. For example, businesses are likely to be asked to screen employee health and then potentially take actions based on the results of the screening.

Businesses – and individuals – should be allowed to return to work as soon as reasonable safety standards can be met. It is unlikely that any of our states will be in a position to allow all industries and all workers to return to work at the same time. We urge you to adopt flexible policies that allow businesses to resume operations – and displaced individuals to return to work — as soon as it is practically feasible within an individual industry or geographic region to meet reasonable safety standards…

Different sectors or regions may need different strategies and timelines. The pandemic is hitting industries and regions of our states in varying ways. The strategies for opening should recognize these differences and adjust accordingly…

The hardest hit industries should receive additional support and consideration. Some industries clearly were hit harder than others, including restaurants, hotels, sports, entertainment, and retail and many businesses will struggle to regain their footing when the stay home orders are lifted…

Worker retraining should occur sooner rather than later. We recognize that some jobs may be forever lost as a result of the economic displacement that has occurred these last few weeks…

Reviving our economy, and building strength for the long-term, must become a priority. As we said above, business agrees that the health of our states’ residents must be our top priority. But we also urge you to prioritize reviving the economy.

NBC reports,

The business associations thanked the three governors for their leadership in this time of crisis and for taking action to limit the spread of the coronavirus. As a result of their swift actions, the western states have not experienced the level of outbreak seen in other parts of the country. 

Nevertheless, the economic devastation that has resulted is significant. “Families in Oregon, Washington and California have lost their incomes and, even with the temporary relief available through unemployment benefits and the federal stimulus packages, the long-term outlook will remain bleak if we don’t immediately start putting our states economies back on track.”

Also, more in Politico.