Los Angeles County on Tuesday approved a proposal to require national grocery and drug retailers operating in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County to pay frontline workers an additional $5 per hour in “hero pay.”
Supervisors Hilda Solis and Holly Mitchell co-authored the motion calling for a temporary “urgency” ordinance that would apply to store chains that are publicly traded or have at least 300 employees nationwide and more than 10 employees per store. Supervisor Kathryn Barger abstained from the vote, which was 4-0.
“There’s no question that these people deserve hero pay,” Barger said, but told her colleagues that she wanted to make sure there would not be unintended consequences before offering her support.
The motion pointed to a rising number of outbreaks of the virus in grocery stores and the additional stress that workers suffer when they cannot consistently maintain distance from crowds of customers at work. Workers also bear increased child care costs incurred while kids are at home distance learning.
Solis and Mitchell noted that several grocery corporations offered $2 to $4 hourly raises at the outset of the pandemic, but that additional support lapsed in May.
The California Grocers Association pushed back hard, agreeing that their employees are heroes, but that the ordinance would result in higher food costs, hurting low-income families and seniors already struggling to cover those costs.
“Grocery store workers are frontline heroes, and that’s why grocers have undertaken a massive effort to institute store policies to make both workers and customers safer,” California Grocers Association President and CEO Ron Fong said. “Many grocers have already provided workers with extra pay, bonuses and generous health benefits during the pandemic as a supplement to the fair, competitive wages and benefits collectively bargained by grocery workers’ unions.”
San Francisco supervisors have also passed a resolution Tuesday to give them hazard pay, after urging large chain grocery stores to raise hourly wages for employees by $5.
The $5 in hazard pay would last while the city remains in the purple, red or orange tier on the state’s tiered system.
The extra compensation would not be required of small mom-and-pop groceries.