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Flower World owner appealing fine for employees not wearing masks

Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday, Aug. 8. (TVW)

Flower World in Maltby is being fined by the state Department of Labor and Industry for a rather unique position. Originally, employees were told not to wear masks while working at Flower World for heat-related reasons. The president of Flower World, John Postema, is ready to test this position as he appeals the state’s decision. He joined the Jason Rantz Show to discuss.

Postema’s position was that it is unsafe for an individual to work at Flower World, particularly in the greenhouse where it can get quite hot, while wearing a mask as it becomes difficult for them to breathe.

“They shut us down for half an hour and suggested we use face masks, face shields, and then we had to do it. We’re an essential operation. Our plants would all die if we can’t operate. So we didn’t have any choice. So under protest, we said ‘OK, if you want to make it more dangerous, we have established that it is your responsibility,’ so if anything happens, they’re the ones who are liable,” he said.

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“We have 95 degrees where it goes up to, a lot of the breathing becomes very moist and the masks don’t work anymore. And basically, we have a 15-acre campus and we can maintain six feet social distancing fairly easily. So we depended on different things than PPE,” he said. “PPE is one of these things that is the least effective to use. So going from 12 times hand washing, sanitizing everything, staying home when you feel sick, all of these things play a much more important role, and we had no sickness during that period at all.”

How did his employees feel about the policy?

“Well, the inspection was because one person complained that we didn’t didn’t allow him, and therefore they came out and they saw that we were not using it and that they saw one time people did not social distance enough than six feet. That’s the claim,” he said.

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“They might have seen a couple of people, but we don’t know who they were, they could have been customers and so on. The point is Washington State Department of Health’s John Wiesman very explicitly says if you can maintain six feet, then you do not have to wear a mask … one of the pages of our appeal brings that out,” Postema added.

L&I has hit Flower World with a fine for thousands of dollars. How far is Postema willing to take this?

“All the way to the state Supreme Court,” he said. “We complied with OSHA regulations under the hazard affiliation of the workplace. But L&I changed the rules with an emergency rule that nobody knew about. They put them in effect under emergency rules and with no public input.”

“Our question was why can you do this? ‘Well, the governor says so.’ The governor, as you probably are familiar with, can limit certain activities in public,” Postema added. “He can suspend and waive certain statutes. But what they can’t do is make new laws, and that is what L&I did.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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