This year has been one for the record books. Our lives and workplaces have been radically changed. Despite this year’s challenges, I’m proud that PIASC has stayed focused on our mission of serving our members and on promoting the positive image of our industry.
We started the year by helping and promoting the future employees of our industry. The RAISE Foundation’s 33rd Annual Surplus Drive took place in January. Over 30 schools benefited from the generosity of our members. Over 90 pallets of paper and supplies were donated.
In February, our celebration of print education continued with the culmination of the RAISE Foundation’s competition. We were able to judge the entries from high school and college. Unfortunately, the world changed overnight and we were not able to celebrate with the students and their teachers and parents. It took a while but we managed to deliver awards to the winning students.
While we were carrying on with our routine, reports began circulating regarding a virus from Wuhan, China. But that seemed a long way from us here in California. At PIASC, we were promoting the 2020 Print Excellence and Graphics Night events.
Then Everything Changed
On January 31, 2020, the World Health Organization declared a Global Health Emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Trump administration declared a public health emergency three days later. Yet, as of February 28, there were only a few reported COVID-19 cases in California and no deaths. Then, on March 4, everything changed; California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency. What followed was unprecedented.
As an association, we knew that our members needed guidance in this new world of COVID-19. Thus, within days of the state of emergency declaration, we had the first of many webinars regarding continuing operations during the virus, Responding to the Coronavirus: An Employer’s Guide. The webinar provided our members with guidelines and protocols for addressing life-threatening infectious diseases in the workplace.
As we were implementing the necessary protocols in our printing businesses, Newsom issued a mandatory statewide stay-at-home order on March 19, 2020. Per the order, the State Public Health Officer compiled a list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.” And printers were not on the list! How ludicrous? This, along with the conflicting Federal, State, and local rules and regulations, added to the state of confusion that many of our members experienced.
Within days of Newsom’s stay at home order, we began working with our state lobbyists, RJ Cervantes and his team at Fernandez Cervantes Government Affairs to amend the list. We also communicated with Michael Makin and Lisbeth Lyons from Printing Industries of America. Once we developed a plan, we called on our members for additional help, and they came through.
We asked company owners, their managers, employees, and everyone else to contact Governor Newsom and urge him to add the printing industry to his critical infrastructure and essential business list. On April 30, 2020, I was thrilled to announce that workers in the printing and graphic communications industry were now on California’s amended list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers.
During this pandemic, it’s reassuring to see that several PIASC members have found ways to provide essential services to the nation. Members continue to help by printing packaging and shipping cartons for crucial products. Other PIASC members are printing labels for food and hand sanitizers, while others have created unique branded facemasks that use replaceable n-95 filters. Still, others have produced face shields as Personal Protective Equipment for the medical industry.
As an association, we did our best to help members navigate the many COVID-19 related issues during this year, including the Paycheck Protection Program, COVID-19 Funding Options, and PPP Loan Forgiveness Guidance.
While this year has been challenging, we have seen several small victories.
While we continued to focus on COVID-19 issues, there was also a BIG victory for our members in the California election on November 3, 2020. Proposition 15 would have been the most massive annual property tax increase in California history and would have been devastating to our industry. Through many blog posts, emails, and one-on-one conversations, we were able to educate the association’s members regarding the impact of Prop 15.
The final results showed 52% No votes and 48% Yes votes. We may have won this time, but the backers of Prop 15 will try again.
As of October, the unemployment rate in California is 9.3 percent. This marks the first month since March 2020 that the State’s unemployment rate was below 10 percent, and the fifth straight month it fell below the all-time unemployment rate high of 16.4 percent set in April and May of this year. These numbers show that the economy is growing.
While the employment numbers are rising, they are still down 1.2 million from the employment total in October of last year.
Another victory we’re happy to see is that the Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID19 vaccines have been authorized for use. Moderna’s vaccine was shown to be 94 percent effective, and Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine was shown 95 percent effective. While the vaccines are approved for use, it will be a while before they are available to the public at large. This means it may be Spring or Summer before things returning to normal.
In light of these small victories, I’d like to express my gratitude for your continued trust and loyalty in PIASC. While we’ve all faced unprecedented challenges this year, I feel these events have underscored the importance of relationships and connectivity, of humanity and kindness, and of strength and resilience. These attributes have been demonstrated time and again through the actions of our members and our colleagues. We thank you for your support, and we will continue to support you in 2021 and beyond.
Finally, I’d like to remind you that not everyone is suffering from this pandemic equally. If you consider your position fortunate right now, make an effort to help others who are less fortunate.
On behalf of the PIASC team, happy holidays, and may you have a safe and healthy New Year.