Cal/OSHA Hearing: The 'Stakeholders' Speak

One word that kept coming up during the hour-long hearing on Thursday before California's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standards Board was "stakeholder."

Cal/OSHA

The term is defined by Dictionary.com as "a person or group that has an investment, share, or interest in something, as a business or industry," and it well describes the performers, directors and producers of adult content who spoke to the five-member Board to express their strong opposition to AIDS Healthcare Foundation's (AHF) attempts, for more than seven years now, to force the performers to use condoms and other "barrier protections"—one speaker referenced "gloves and dental dams"—while performing on-camera sex acts.

The meeting commenced shortly after 10 a.m., and when the Board Chair Dave Thomas opened the Public Meeting portion of the session, first at the microphone was Adult Performer Advocacy Committee Board (APAC) member Ela Darling.

"We represent about half of the active performer base in the adult industry," Darling began. "I and the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee support the FSC petition, and ask that you please convene an advisory committee based on that petition. We further request that you exclude the AHF, who have tried to hijack and politicize this process in an effort to further their crusade to pass Prop 60 using performers as pawns. They've incentivized a retired performer [Phyllisha Anne] to support their cause, and misrepresent her organization [IEAU] as supporting them; they've created an atmosphere of antagonism for performers who speak out against them. Just this week, they've acquired citations against a performer/producer [Joanna Angel] and shared her information, including where she lives, with reporters. They've shown that they are not interested in working with performers. I and my organization called a press conference several weeks ago and they didn't respond, they didn't make any effort to communicate with us. They've shown that they do not have any interest in working with us, speaking to us or considering our perspectives. They create an atmosphere that is not conducive to positive, constructive discourse and as the true stakeholders in this industry, we ask that you allow us to work with you on this without having people who have antagonized us and wish us harm along the way."

What followed was a procession of adult industry supporters, all speaking in favor of Petition 560, which was created by Free Speech Coalition in an attempt to find a workable arrangement that would allow condom choice during sex scenes while still adhering to Cal/OSHA safety protocols. Also under consideration was Petition 557, created by AIDS Healthcare, and described by Administrative Officer Marley Hart as "substantially identical" to Petition 513, which was filed in 2009 and which led to nearly a dozen public meetings overseen by then-Cal/OSHA Chief Inspector Deborah Gold.

"I have been a condom-only performer for the past almost 12 years," noted the next speaker, Jiz Lee. "The last time I was testifying in Oakland for OSHA, I said that the current regulations make a mockery of safer sex. The reason behind that is because the kind of restrictions on fluid exchange recall to mind the ridiculous 'Bubble Boy' imagery that is almost comically unrealistic when it comes to depicting skin-to-skin intimacy that is so huge in sex. We say 'safer sex' as opposed to 'safe sex' because we understand that all sex acts involve some level of risk. ... I also work behind the scenes in porn, providing performers full use of these safer sex tools. On behalf of San Francisco-based production company Pink and White Productions, director Shine Louis Houston and myself, we support the Free Speech Coalition's petition 560 which we believe is the most comprehensive safety guideline for protection of adult films as well as the most appropriate protection and privacy of performer workers."

Following Lee was attorney Karen Tynan, who sounded an ominous note concerning AHF's practices: "I'd like to draw the Board's attention to the abuse of this process. A press release went out the day before yesterday from AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and if you want to talk about rhetoric, that's where the rhetoric is. The use of this Standards Board process and the use of Cal/OSHA resources to further an outside agenda by non-stakeholders is appalling. This press release uses the Cal/OSHA citations, revealing specific information regarding a performer and seeks to politicize this process."

“I was not aware of my sexual health and well-being in the way that I am; nowhere even close to it," admitted performer Janice Griffith, "and the regulations and protocols we have in place for testing make me feel very safe; I'm very comfortable with them, and we've implemented them ourselves because we know our bodies best. We would just really like it if you could listen to us about what is going on in ourselves. The way that AHF has pushed and gone about their agenda is just honestly mildly insulting because we haven't had an on-set transmission of HIV in over 11 years. We have been very careful. We take care of each other. We know what we've doing with ourselves and the protocols we have in place keep us safe."

The next speaker, performer Verta, challenged the Board's expertise in ruling on this issue.

"Since you're graciously hearing our voices once more, allow me to ask a history question: How many industries have had their regulations decided by parties that do not, have not and have never and will never work in that field and are also not safety or union representatives?" she asked. "I truly believe this is something we need to address. We are trying to be a part of this process, to create regulations that make sense for what our industry currently looks like. It's easy to push away self-accountability. We are not. We are trying to accept responsibility for ourselves and our safety and our work."

Another industry supporter was Dr. Hernando Chavez, a psychology professor and licensed family therapist, who supported both voluntary barrier use and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication to guard against HIV infection, such as Truvada.

"As a sex educator, and also as someone who does sex research, the exclusion of PrEP and other forms of more modern reproductive health measures to me is irresponsible, and I find that to focus solely on barrier methods isn't the most effective way for us to be looking at this issue from a holistic perspective," he said. "When you look at the research, much of the barrier usage of condoms with typical use can be 10, 15, 20 percent lower than the use of PrEP, so I think we have to ask ourselves, is barrier enough? And knowing the typical use rates within research and the failure rates, I think we can do better, and if we're here truly to support this industry in trying to find the most positive means of helping and supporting this industry through health measures, I think we have to invite them into the conversation."

Read the full AVN article here: http://goo.gl/cckzQ5