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Originally published on March 3, 2021
Grocery workers in the city of Los Angeles are set to receive a temporary $5 per hour pay raise, after the city council voted today to mandate “hero pay” for employees of larger grocery and drugstore chains.
Tuesday’s vote — a procedural requirement after the measure failed to earn the council’s unanimous support last week — fell along expected lines, with 14 councilmembers supporting the measure and San Fernando Valley Councilman John Lee casting the lone “no” vote.
The pay bump will take effect immediately and last for 120 days once Mayor Eric Garcetti signs off on the ordinance, which he has said he supports. An estimated 26,000 workers in the city could benefit from the extra pay.
“For months workers have been demanding hazard pay as the pandemic continues, but companies have pocketed their profits,” said Kathy Finn, secretary-treasurer of the L.A. grocery workers union UFCW 770, in an emailed statement after last week’s council vote. “The Los Angeles City Council listened to workers today, not the fear mongering of giant corporations, and for that we are grateful.”
California’s grocery industry has filed legal challenges to “hero pay” mandates in other cities, and has vowed to fight requirements in L.A.
“Extra pay mandates will have severe unintended consequences on not only grocers, but on their workers and their customers,” California Grocers Association CEO Ron Fong said in a statement last week.
The industry group has argued the pay bump will lead to higher food prices and store closures, without making workers any safer. Employers have also pushed the city to shorten its 120-day timeline for requiring hazard pay, given that food workers in L.A. County are now eligible for vaccination.
The L.A. city council vote follows the passage of “hero pay” laws in Long Beach, West Hollywood, Montebello and the unincorporated parts of L.A. County.
Last week, a judge denied the California Grocers Association’s request for an injunction against Long Beach’s $4-per-hour mandate. The industry group said it will appeal that decision. Since the passage of Long Beach’s ordinance, the grocery giant Kroger announced the closure of two stores in the city.
— DAVID WAGNER
This report is reprinted with permission from Southern California Public Radio. © 2021 Southern California Public Radio. All rights reserved.