As cities across California target grocery stores, demanding they offer “hero pay” to employees in the form of raising their wages $4-$5 an hour, grocery stores are closing in response.
On January 19, the Long Beach City Council approved a measure that would force supermarkets with at least 300 employees nationwide and more than 15 in Long Beach to raise their workers’ wages $4 an hour for the next 120 days. Mayor Robert Garcia said, “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.”
As the Press-Telegram reported, “The Kroger Co., which owns Ralphs and Food 4 Less, announced Monday, Feb. 1, that it will close a Ralphs in East Long Beach, 3380 N. Los Coyotes Diagonal, and a Food 4 Less in North Long Beach, 2185 E. South St., on April 17.”
Kroger issued a statement: “As a result of the City of Long Beach’s decision to pass an ordinance mandating Extra Pay for grocery workers, we have made the difficult decision to permanently close long-struggling store locations in Long Beach. This misguided action by the Long Beach City Council oversteps the traditional bargaining process and applies to some, but not all, grocery workers in the city.” John Votava, the corporate affairs director for Ralphs, added, “These misguided mandates could put any struggling store in jeopardy of closure.”
On Monday, the California Grocers Association blasted the Long Beach decision. CEO Ron Fong stated, “A $4/hour increase represents about a 28 percent increase in labor costs for grocers. 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. The Long Beach City Council put politics ahead of families and jobs in the middle of a pandemic. This was entirely avoidable.”
Other California cities have passed measures demanding “hero pay” for grocery workers. On January 27, the Montebello City Council passed a bill that would force large drug and grocery stores to give their employees a $4 per hour raise for the next 180 days despite the possibility the city would be sued. Prior to the unanimous vote by the council, City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman warned them that the California Grocers Association had already sued Long Beach, as the Whittier Daily News reported.
“A $5-per-hour hazard pay wage increase was approved Tuesday by the Oakland City Council,” Yahoo News noted on Tuesday.
“Last week, Santa Clara County passed a mandate for a five-dollar per hour raise for a variety of essential workers, including grocery clerks. Similar resolutions have been drafted and will likely come up for a vote in Los Angeles, Pomona, Oakland, and San Jose,” Jazz Shaw of HotAir reported on Wednesday.
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