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Los Angeles County orders extra $5 an hour in 'hero pay' for grocery workers

The Hill logo The Hill 2/25/2021 Lexi Lonas
a group of people walking down the street: Protesters call for hazard pay for grocery store workers © Getty Images Protesters call for hazard pay for grocery store workers

Los Angeles County on Tuesday passed an ordinance mandating an extra $5 an hour in "hero pay" for grocery store workers.

The mandate was passed in a 4-1 vote with the only Republican on the board voting against the measure, the Los Angeles Times reported. Workers will get an extra $5 in pay for 120 days starting on Friday.

The mandate applies in unincorporated areas to stores like publicly traded grocery stores, retail drug companies and companies with more than 300 employees across the county with 10 or more employees at each location.

This is not the first area in California to consider extra pay for grocery store workers. Long Beach and Montebello City have also passed hazard pay ordinances.

The California Grocers Association is expected to sue the city as they did in Long Beach, saying Los Angeles County is disrupting the collective bargaining process.

"We're going to be forced to sue [the county] if it passes, and that's just unfortunate because it means we will comply obviously with an ordinance that has been passed legally, and the time clock starts as to making it harder for independent businesses doing business in the county of Los Angeles," said Ron Fong, president and chief executive at the California Grocers Association.

The measure will give an increase in pay to 2,500 grocery store workers and proponents of the measure say stores have made extra money since more people are eating at home due to the pandemic.

However, grocery stores operate on small margins and the boost they saw at the beginning of the pandemic did not last long, according to a city report, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"These workers ... have put their lives on the line since the beginning of the pandemic to keep our food supply chain running and provide access to medicine our families need," said Democratic Supervisor Hilda Solis, who proposed the measure. "Many are working in fear and without adequate financial support, while their employers continue to see profits grow and top executives receive steep pay bonuses."

Some fear grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods or ones that were already struggling will close down to make up for the cost of the hazard pay.

Two Kroger stores shut down in Long Beach after their measures for hazard pay were passed.

"I would hate to think we're driving [out of business] the very businesses we fought so hard to locate in unincorporated areas, many of which are working-class neighborhoods ... and that's why I can't vote for this," said Republican Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

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