Earlier this month, Lindsey Graham (no, not that Lindsey Graham) reopened her salon business in defiance of Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” executive order mandating the closure of “non-essential” businesses. Though businesses like hers are allowed to reopen in 31 of Oregon’s 36 counties, her salon is in Marion County, which was denied permission to begin reopening after an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations.
A day before she reopened, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warned her that she would be fined if she reopened.
Because she was willingly and knowingly acting in defiance of the law, OSHA fined her $14,000, and threatened to levy another fine if she remained open. According to OSHA, there have been many complaints made against her business, including reports that her employees were not wearing masks, social distancing measures were not being taken, and that the salon was still accepting customers through the back door despite being closed.
Thus far, there could be a reasonable case against her. She knowingly defied the law, possibly putting people’s health at risk, all to make business profits! Surely she could’ve stayed closed and used the $30,000 in federal relief funds her businesses received to get by.
But there’s more to the story.
After reopening her business, Child Protective Services (CPS) paid her a visit, searched her home, and interviewed her kids. Because of confidentiality rules, CPS cannot even confirm their visit happened, much less the reason why. CPS did state that her store reopening would not be reason for a visit. But it is still, at the very least, a suspicious coincidence.
As for her $30,000 relief fund, she can only use this to cover overhead costs for her six businesses (four ‘Tan Republic’ locations, a gym, and this salon) for a month at most. She wants to reopen one of her six businesses not for abstract business profits, (as some would unfairly paint it) but to feed her family, and to pay other stylists in her salon so that they can feed their families.
None of her 23 stylists claim to have received any kind of unemployment or government assistance since the lockdown began. And because they are independent contractors and not employees, they cannot receive any of the relief fund.
The fact that Graham’s business uses independent contractors and does not have any employees brings about another question. OSHA is arguing that these contractors act like employees, even though they officially aren’t. And OSHA does not have jurisdiction over contractors. Since Graham’s salon only has contractors, OSHA’s role is questionable.
OSHA and CPS are not the only agencies threatening Lindsey Graham. Her salon is renting a building owned by the City of Salem, which informed her she is in violation of her lease by breaking state orders, and is therefore at risk of having to move to a different location.
Although inconvenient, having to move to a new location is nowhere near as bad as having a license revoked. According to Graham, the Oregon Health Licensing Agency emailed her and each of her 23 contractors (despite only three stylists working at that time), threatening to remove their licenses.
Graham claims she will fight OSHA’s fine, and she is not alone. Other Oregon businesses are suing Governor Brown and Public Health Director Lillian Shirley, arguing that the order violates constitutional rights.
Some will still argue that this is entirely justified because she is defying restrictions put in place to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, and if allowed to reopen, she would be putting the health of others at risk. Since a hair salon cannot function while abiding social distancing laws, they say, it needs to remain closed for public safety.
But this is all nonsense. Numerous salons not far from hers were allowed to reopen. But because her salon is located in a county with more cases than others, she cannot legally open.
Regarding the increase in hospitalizations, it is worth noting that the Marion County Commissioner claims that the number of cases is still “way down” from the peak. A relatively small increase is no justification for continuing such a damaging shutdown.
If anything, this example is one of many reminders that “shutting down the economy” is not some loss of abstract profits. To shut down the economy is to shut down society. To dismiss people as “non-essential” is to dismiss their means of feeding their families. This is also yet another reminder of what the state will do to those who defy its increase in power.
Graham was threatened not by just one state organization, but four. As many ordinary people are doing what they can to support her through a GoFundMe, the state will do anything it can to ruin lives under the guise of “Occupational Safety,” “Public Health,” and “Child Protection.”