Comments from Mobilized Members Saved the Day
The Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI) and California Cleaners Association (CCA) mobilized members to defeat a proposed ban on drycleaning bags in the city of Los Angeles.
DLI and CCA learned about the city’s proposed ban about one week before the city’s December 1 vote. DLI and CCA immediately worked to mobilize members and share comments in defense of the industry’s use of poly bags.
“DLI and CCA headed off what might have been a very costly outcome for the industry,” said DLI CEO Mary Scalco. “Once enacted, measures like this are often replicated by other municipalities and states across the country.”
American Drycleaner interviewed Scalco and CCA President Toran Brown who is also DLI’s District 8 Director and owner of Rytina Fine Cleaners and Launderers in Sacramento, California, about the issue for its special report, “L.A. Cleaners, Associations Fight Proposed Poly Bag Ban,” released in audio format on December 8, 2022. The following is a transcript of that report. Readers may also listen to the report on the American Drycleaner website: https://tinyurl.com/4zsm4pdf
Transcript of American Drycleaner’s Special Report Episode 45:
L.A. Cleaners, Associations Fight Proposed Poly Bag Ban
Hello. This is a special report from American Drycleaner. I’m Dave Davis, Editor of American Drycleaner magazine. Legislators in Los Angeles met on December 1 to consider banning single use plastic bags used in groceries, hardware stores, and other businesses in that area. Many drycleaners feared that the poly bags they use to package and protect their customers’ clean clothes would also be affected by the proposed ban. Their concerns were addressed by both local and national trade organizations who studied the issue and added the voice of the drycleaning industry to the discussion.
The proposal, prepared by the L.A. Department of Sanitation, was heard by the city’s Energy, Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and River Committee. Both the California Cleaners Association on the local level and the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute on the national level, mobilized to get clarification on the issues. Both organizations also submitted letters stating why single use poly bags are necessary in the drycleaning process and why they’d be difficult, if not impossible to replace.
Toran Brown, President of the California Cleaners Association, explains that a former board member of the CCA let the organization know that single use plastics used by drycleaners had recently been added to the review of possibly banned items. The organizations had to work fast to make sure the voice of the drycleaner was heard in the discussion.
Unfortunately, because of the timing we didn’t have a lot of leeway in order to mobilize a lot of people. We literally had about a week and a half – and worse yet in the middle of all this was the Thanksgiving holiday – so that took a couple of days out.
The CCA was able to gather members of the southern California area together and reached out to the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute to discuss strategy.
CCA former board member Jim Douglas really took the lead on this. He contacted L.A. city sanitation, and really began to explore with them what their objectives were, educated them on the implications from an operational standpoint within the industry, and began that dialogue of “Okay, we need to work together to find a viable joint solution.”
Brown believes that these efforts and dialogues are key in getting drycleaning poly bags excluded from this type of legislation.
For a drycleaning operation, there’s a much bigger implication for us than there is for a pharmacy or a hardware store that simply is just finding an alternative packaging source for their products.
This process highlighted the value the trade organizations can provide to drycleaners not only in Los Angeles, but for the industry in general.
Mary Scalco, CEO of DLI, believes this type of presence is needed both at the local and the national level.
To me, advocacy is sort of well-placed conversations. You need to talk to somebody and you need to know who to talk to and what to say. So, when it’s on the local level, they know who knows who. You know, who knows somebody on the city council? Who can talk to somebody in the legislative arena out there? On the federal level, it just becomes a more global conversation.
Scalco believes that being able to bring her bright cleaners together on a regional or a national stage is one of the main benefits of having trade associations.
We have the ability to mobilize all the drycleaners in the country if we had to for certain issues and we’ve done that in the past. We were prepared to try and do that if California escalated to the next level. Because it’s important for people to hear, I think, when you’re making these decisions, whether it’s on the local level or regional or federal or even globally, you need to hear from the industry you’re regulating to find out what those consequences are.
While the ban on poly bags would have only affected L.A. cleaners for now, Scalco believes it’s important to enter into the conversation early rather than when matters have already been decided on a larger scale.
What happens whenever something like that proposal goes through, no matter where it is, it could have ramifications for the entire industry. We want to make sure we’re on top of it whether it’s at a federal level that’s easier for DLI to take the lead on, but in something like the Los Angeles city proposed ban, the California Cleaners Association being the local organization, can probably be a little bit more effective because they can actually go to the meetings and show up in person if they need to. We’ll also fly out if it ever gets to that point, but the idea is anything that happens on the local level has the potential to affect the entire country.
Scalco feels that government issues, environmental concerns, and business needs don’t have to be a cross purposes but it does take communication to find the correct solutions for everyone.
I would think any association, having those conversations, as long as both parties are willing to listen and to make adjustments, you’re going to come out with a better regulation. You’re going to come out with a better rule that not only protects what they’re trying to protect but also protects the industry as well. You know, we’re sometimes at an advantage because we’re a small business. In most cases drycleaners are small business owners, and nobody likes to put small business out of business. So, if you’re having a conversation where both sides are listening, you can come out with an agenda that works for both people.
Ultimately, the Los Angeles committee clarified the proposed legislation, addressing the concerns aired by drycleaners and the trade organizations, stating implicitly that the proposed ban would not extend to drycleaners. For American Drycleaner, this is Dave Davis.
Advocacy is one of the main pillars of DLI’s purpose. DLI is the watchdog for the industry, and we fight to pro- tect your business from reckless legislation like this and work to keep it from spreading. We can only do what we do with the resources that come from dues dollars. So, thank you to all who support the associations. As an industry, we are seeing more and more regulations each year, and the next legislative fight might be in your town, city or state.