Feb. 26, 2021 -- The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has passed an ordinance requiring grocery stores and pharmacies to pay an extra $5 per hour in “hero pay” to front-line employees working during the coronavirus pandemic.
The order will be in effect for at least 120 days and will cover about 2,000 employees in the unincorporated part of the county, according to a news release from Board Chair Hilda L. Solis.
“These workers, many of whom include older adults and single mothers, 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,” Solis said. “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.”
The ordinance passed 4-1 during a Tuesday meeting. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger cast the vote against the ordinance, saying she feared “unintended consequences,” such as stores closing or workers having their hours cut back.
The Washington Post said Long Beach, CA, and Seattle recently approved similar ordinances, which prompted Kroger to close two stores in each city in response.
The Post said Kroger issued this statement Wednesday: “The recent decision by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors is deeply disappointing and it ignores the realities of operating a financially sustainable business.”
The California Grocers Association said it might file a lawsuit to contest the ordinance, as it did for the ordinance in Long Beach and other jurisdictions, the Post said.
Several residents at the supervisors’ meeting spoke against the ordinance.
“The hardship on small grocery stores of having to pay an extra $5/hour for the ‘heroism’ of a worker wearing a mask and behind plexiglass is ridiculous to me,” one speaker said, according to the minutes of the meeting.
John Grant, president of UFCW 770, a union that represents grocery workers in L.A. County, praised the action.
“We have lost too many members to this virus and no end is in sight,” he said in a statement. “Passing this measure in Los Angeles County is a good first step in the fight for safety and respect for our members and all workers -- union and non-union -- who are on the frontlines keeping our communities fed.”
Los Angeles County is the most populous county in the nation and leads in confirmed coronavirus cases (1.1 million) and coronavirus-related deaths (21,106), according to Johns Hopkins University.