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L.A. County Considering Mandatory Hero Pay

Ordinance would apply to grocery, drug, convenience-store workers that fit criteria
Photograph: Shutterstock

LOS ANGELES — Retailers including grocery, drug and convenience stores in unincorporated Los Angeles County could be required to increase some employees’ pay by $5 per hour, according to a motion by county board supervisors Hilda Solis and Holly Mitchell.

The Los Angeles County Board on Tuesday approved the motion for the county’s attorneys to draft an ordinance mandating “hero pay” for frontline workers.

In a series of Tweets on Jan. 5, Solis confirmed the board approved the motion to write the ordinance and said the coronavirus pandemic made clear the importance of industries deemed essential.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, these workers have continued to show up to their jobs despite the dangers of being exposed to the virus,” Solis tweeted. “Because of their work on the frontlines, families throughout the County have been able to access food and medicine they need during the pandemic.”

The ordinance would only affect stores that are publicly traded or have at least 300 employees nationwide and more than 10 employees per store site, per the supervisors’ proposal. The $5 per hour increase in wages would be paid to all workers and end 120 days after the ordinance took effect.

The proposal asked the county’s attorneys to determine whether the ordinance could apply to incorporated as well as unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.  

One supervisor, Kathryn Barger, abstained from voting, the Los Angeles Times reported, for fear of unintended consequences from the proposed ordinance.

Ron Fong, president and CEO of the California Grocers Association, issued a statement before the board’s meeting on Tuesday that warned of the potential negative effects of the ordinance. Fong said that while grocery store workers are frontline heroes, grocers have undertaken a massive effort to institute policies to make workers and customers safer, and many grocers have already provided extra pay bonuses and generous health benefits during the pandemic.

“These extra pay mandates will not do anything to make grocery workers or customers any safer. Rather, there will be significant potential negative consequences and would likely result in higher costs for groceries that disproportionately hurts low-income families, seniors and disadvantaged communities already struggling financially. These proposals could also harm grocery workers themselves if stores are forced to reduce jobs or hours for employees due to higher costs,” Fong’s statement said, in part.

Many c-stores chains gave frontline workers raises or bonuses in March for the challenges they face working during the COVID-19 spread. Some chains, like Oklahoma City-based Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, recently extended their pay increase policy.

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