Like many small business owners, Lindsey and Scott Graham of Oregon just want to get their businesses back up and running, but have reportedly been threatened with a $70,000 fine if they do.
The couple’s gym, four tanning salons and hair salon have been closed since late March, when Democratic Gov. Kate Brown implemented her “Stay Home, Save Lives” executive order. Lindsey Graham given birth to a newborn shortly before the shutdown began, but didn’t anticipate being out of work so long.
Graham told PJ Media she had to let 25 employees go, and the closures have cost the family thousands in lost revenue.
As a result, she opted to open one of her businesses — Glamour Salon in Salem.
On Monday, Lindsey Graham was sanitizing her closed hair salon in preparation to open the following day, when an official from Oregon’s Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division, or OSHA, showed up.
Graham said he threatened her with a $1,000 fine if she opened and an additional fine for “willful noncompliance” if she remained open following the first citation, according to PJ Media. (It’s worth noting that Graham called OSHA, and says she was told in a recorded message and by a live representative that the agency does not enforce stay-at-home or business shutdown orders.)
The maximum penalty for that second fine, the outlet reported, is $70,000.
In her Facebook video Monday, Graham said she was “terrified” and couldn’t “possibly risk a $70,000 citation.”
“The whole point of me opening up is that I don’t want my family to be in a financial situation later because the government closed our businesses,” she said, later indicating that she felt “beaten down.”
“Well, I don’t even really want to reopen tomorrow, I just kind of have to,” Graham told KOIN on Monday. “It’s been more a month, and we don’t even have a date yet, and I can’t imagine our family surviving that way without knowing when we can work again and with no income coming in.”
Graham joined protests over the weekend calling on the governor to allow businesses to reopen, making her a sort of de facto figurehead for the movement.
“It was pretty eye-opening and also devastating to know that the reason we were there is because we were begging her to let us reopen our businesses and just work,” she said.
She also told the news outlet that her employees would be taking all necessary precautions to ensure everyone’s health, such as using masks and gloves, disinfecting between appointments, and restricting the number of employees and customers inside the business.
Still, reopening would be in defiance of Brown’s order.
Graham went ahead and reopened anyway, and a crowd showed up outside her business to support her.
There’s a large crowd forming outside Glamour salon in Salem this morning as it reopens against @OregonGovBrown’s Stay Home Save Lives order. They tell us they’re in support of the salon reopening today @fox12oregon pic.twitter.com/SMFljTNH8e
— Amber Wilmarth (@amberwilmarth) May 5, 2020
Brown’s office said in a statement to KGW that they were aware of the salon’s operation in defiance of the order, calling it “irresponsible and unfortunate.”
Oregon’s OSHA wouldn’t confirm to the outlet whether it would take punitive action, though the governor’s office said defying the “Stay Home, Save Lives” orders could cost Graham up to $1,250 in fines and/or 30 days in prison for the Class C misdemeanor charge.
KGW also reported that OSHA “did point out that a willful violation of their rules carries a minimum fine of $8,900.00.”
There have been no reports of Graham receiving the citation despite opening Tuesday, but another salon owner was not as fortunate, as Shelley Luther of Texas was sentenced to a week in jail after opening her salon in defiance of state-mandated closures.
Business owners are not grandstanding, they are just doing their best to earn a living after their businesses were shuttered indefinitely by stroke of a pen.
The shutdowns have caused economic hardship for so many across the nation, but even in the left-leaning state of Oregon, there is hope as people like Graham begin to push back against their authoritarian government.
People are losing the businesses they’ve worked a lifetime to build, while their employees are left hoping they can obtain unemployment benefits.
Good people like Lindsey Graham simply wish to find ways to safely get back to work, and it is the government’s job to get out of their way as soon as possible.