“Hero Pay” Causing Several Supermarkets in Long Beach to Close

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.

Monday, Kroger announced that it will be closing two locations in Long Beach due to a recent local ordinance passed by the city that increases worker pay by $4.

On January 19th, the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously to approve the first “hero pay” pay bump for grocery store workers due to the safety and health risks they face while working during the COVID-19 pandemic. For 120 days, supermarket employees in stores that have at least 300 employees nationwide and more than 15 in Long Beach will receive an additional $4 an hour. The Council did not financially back the plan however, forcing grocery stores to pay it themselves.

“Grocery workers working during the COVID-19 emergency merit additional compensation because they are performing hazardous duty due to the significant risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus,” the ordinance said. “They are working in these hazardous conditions now and will continue to face safety risks as the virus presents an ongoing threat for an uncertain period, potentially resulting in subsequent waves of infection.”

Long Beach’s action helped influence pay bumps and pay bump proposals across Southern California, with Montebello recently passing a similar version in their city, with Los Angeles and Pomona currently having proposals under consideration.

Mayor Robert Garcia praised the move last month, noting, “These folks that are working at these markets and these grocery stores are heroes. This is nothing new. They have received this type of additional pay in the past and if they deserved it in the past, they deserve it today.”

However, many business owners and groups, most notably Kroger and the California Grocers Association (CGA), were up in arms over the decision. The CGA specifically noted that the ordinance violated workers rights, as it interfered with the collective bargaining process between stores and workers. And with another $4 an hour per employee, labor costs per store would go up by 28%, an unreasonable figure to the CGA.

“There’s no way grocers can absorb that big of a cost increase without an offset somewhere else, considering grocers operate with razor thin margins and many stores already operate in the red,” explained CGA President and CEO Ron Fong in a statement.

The day after the ordinance was passed, the CGA filed a lawsuit against the city.

Read the rest at: californiaglobe.com


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