While 2020 is a year we’d all be happy to forget, the first couple of months of 2021 have shown us a glimmer of hope that foreshadows better times ahead.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “L.A. County has seen significant improvement across virtually all of its coronavirus metrics over the last few weeks — leading to growing optimism that the region is finally putting the worst wave of the pandemic behind it.”
Due to COVID-19, many members of our Association have made significant adjustments to stay in business. We, too, made tough decisions and made drastic cuts to make sure we could continue serving our members. By mid-April 2020, through layoffs and furloughs, we downsized significantly.
While we cut about one-third of our staff, we increased our engagement with our members. Our focus as an association moved from networking events like Graphics Night and Cocktails & Conversations to confronting Essential Business and H.R. issues and PPP financial assistance. To help members get through the pandemic, PIASC and our network of specialists, in essence, became a private consulting firm. These efforts continue today.
Federal, State, and Local Representation During the Pandemic
With a new administration in Washington and an ever-changing business landscape here in California, PIASC continues to help its members navigate governmental rules and regulations on a national, state, and local level.
If you remember back to the whole “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” list in 2020, it was through the tremendous efforts of our network of specialists that we were able to secure “Essential Worker” status for printers throughout California. RJ Cervantes of Fernández Cervantes Government Affairs, our lobbyist in Sacramento, assisted us at the state and county levels. Lisbeth Lyons and Michael Makin from Printing Industries of America helped us on a national level. And Ken Perkins and his colleagues at Musick Peeler & Garrett assisted us at the county and city level.
We have a long-standing relationship with Lisbeth Lyons, Vice President of Government & Political Affairs for PRINTING United Alliance. Lisbeth is responsible for providing direct advocacy before Congress and the Administration on crucial industry legislative initiatives. She also provides strategic direction for the printing industry’s grassroots and external outreach activities. In addition, she serves as Treasurer of PrintPAC, the only industry political action committee dedicated solely to electing pro-print lawmakers. Our relationship with Lisbeth continues through our participation in Print Powers America. The importance of having a voice in Washington D.C. is invaluable. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to connect with Lisbeth on LinkedIn (click here) and consider a corporate contribution to Print Powers America.
I can’t overemphasize the importance of these relationships. For example, during the past year, California’s Governor would issue a statement regarding quarantine or essential workers or some other COVID-19 related matter, and I would read it. Then I would contact PIASC’s Director of Member Services, Kristy Villanueva, and we’d review it together. Then we would talk with Rodney Bolton, HR BIZZ, our Human Resources specialist. Then, to make sure we had dotted all the i’s and crossed the t’s, we would tap our network of specialists, including R.J. and our labor counsel at Musick Peeler, before communicating with our members. In several cases, we used our connections to the local authorities to confirm our interpretation. Even with all this research, within days, sometimes hours, the State’s direction would change, and we’d have to make modifications to our communications and provide updated information to our members. To say the situation, at times, was “fluid” was is an understatement.
Through our network of specialists, PIASC has continued to demonstrate the power of membership.
New Cost-Effective Medical Options
Despite the pandemic, the Printing Industries Benefit Trust introduced a new self-funded set of medical benefit plans, similar to PPO plans. These plans are in addition to the medical, dental, and vision plans we already offer. PIBT’s new Freedom Plans help you to control costs. Plan benefits are the same whether you seek care from an in-network or out-of-network practitioner (e.g., Freedom Plans benefits are network agnostic). Members still have an advocate to help them navigate the healthcare system.
These plans seek to control claim costs by auditing major claims and paying reasonable reimbursements based on reported costs and a fair margin.
New Multiple Employer Retirement Plan – Graphics Communication 401(k) Plan
As the pandemic began, we introduced a new retirement plan for the industry, the Graphics Communication 401(k) Plan. Employers with existing 401(k) Plans can transfer these to the Graphics Communication 401(k) Plan or start a new plan. The new Plan was seeded with PIASC’s retirement Plan.
Employers can personalize their participation while most of the administrative burden of offering a 401(k) plan to employees is offloaded to PIASC’s staff. Just think, if your Plan requires an annual audit, you can eliminate the audit hassle because the Graphics Communication 401(k) Plan files one 5500 (including the required audit) on behalf of its participants.
Because we are aggregating investments under one Plan, we can secure beneficial pricing from Transamerica, resulting in improved returns for employees. We took this step because we believe that this will help our members! The Association does not profit from the Plan.
Help with Compliance Issues
During these trying times, the last thing you want to worry about is compliance issues. PIASC has numerous regulatory and safety resources, all designed for our industry. Many of these resources are online and require little or no in-person meetings. These include:
- Sales Tax Guide
- SB198 compliant Injury & Illness Prevention Program
- Forklift Training Manual
- Safety Compliance Checklist
- Storm Water Permit Checklist
- Lock Out / Block Out Form
- Back Injury Prevention
- Record Retention Guide
- And More
However, when you just need to talk to someone, the Association staff has years of business management experience. And now, with our new staff member Cathy Skoglund, we have experience with print production, too.
Money-Saving Options for Association Members
In addition to helping our members with legal, medical, and compliance issues during the pandemic, PIASC continues to help printing companies control costs with money-saving discounts. These include discounts on short and long-haul shipping, credit reports, computer products, online compliance training, background checks, business insurance, and more.
Staffing Assistance for Association Members
If Los Angeles traffic is an indicator, the recovery is on its way! The good news of the recovery will be coupled with the need to rebuild staff.
While we would have never predicted a pandemic, strengthening our Employment Services team was a top priority. Our team is here to help members connect with candidates. This service is purposely not a portal because we want to make sure that we understand the job requirements, and we do not want to bog down our members in fighting through online forms. Just think, this is a member benefit without the typical fee, AND our policy is not to recruit from member companies.
This pandemic has challenged all of us, yet the Association has adapted to meet our members’ ever-changing needs. I think we are a leaner, more agile organization better positioned to fulfill our mission of serving members.
I am bullish on the future. Our industry, as it has done time and again, is going to return stronger than ever. It is my hope that our members continue to rely on our expertise and exploit our services. Let us help you and tell us what we can do better and what services we are missing. The key to the success of the Association is its members, together let’s work towards a safe, healthy, and profitable 2021!