LONG BEACH (CBSLA) - In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council gave initial approval for an emergency hazard pay ordinance that would require large grocery stores and pharmacies to offer employees an additional $5 per hour amid the pandemic.
The vote called on the City Attorney to draft an ordinance which will again return to the council for final approval.
The vote comes just days after Kroger announced it will close two grocery stores in Long Beach because of a similar mandate recently passed there.
The California Grocers Association (CGA) says the city mandates are an overreach and will have a ripple effect of unintended consequences.
"We think these local ordinances are unprecedented to be honest with you," said Ron Fong, CGA President and CEO. "We've never seen a city council trying and tell businesses what to pay our employees."
When Kroger announced Monday the closures of a Ralph's and Food 4 Less store, it blamed the city, saying: "This misguided action...oversteps the traditional bargaining process and applies to some, but not all, grocery workers in the city... The irreparable harm that will come to employees and local citizens as a direct result...is deeply unfortunate."
Critics of the move said Kroger can afford to pay employees more when the company's profits went up 90% in 2020.
The local grocery store workers union called the decision retaliatory.
"I'm extremely offended that Kroger would take this kind of an action after their employees have gone to work every single day and taken great risks," said Andrea Zinder, UFCW Local 324 president.
Food access advocates also weighed in, saying the April closures - mainly the Food 4 Less in North Long Beach - will hurt the surrounding vulnerable communities.
"It's an area of town with every few supermarkets, and it's an area where people have a lot of mobility challenges," said Ryan Smolar of Long Beach Fresh. "They might be walking to the market, biking to the market."
About 200 employees in the two grocery stores will be impacted, but it's unclear whether they'll be reassigned to other stores.
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