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'Hero Pay' Could Backfire, Grocery Industry Says
By Jorge Casuso
January 11, 2021 -- The grocery industry is warning cities like Santa Monica to reconsider "knee-jerk proposals" to raise the pay of grocery workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
The California Grocers Association says ordinances like the one the City Council is considering Tuesday will likely result in higher food prices and scaled-back hours for workers.
"Some localities are rushing to implement these proposals in just a few short weeks without a complete analysis of their costs, impact to families and communities, and input from businesses," the Association said in a statement.
The industry group urged cities to stop and study the potential impacts of their proposed measures "before rushing to a decision that could do far more harm than good."
The warning came as Los Angeles Supervisors took initial steps last week to give workers at large grocery and drug store chains in unincorporated areas an additional $5-an-hour "hero pay."
Santa Monica, Long Beach and Los Angeles are considering similar measures ("Santa Monica Could Boost Pay for Grocery, Drug Store Workers," January 7, 2021).
"A vote on these knee-jerk proposals without conducting an economic analysis is premature," said Ron Fong, president and CEO of the California Grocers Association.
“It doesn’t make sense to single out grocery stores for these extra pay proposals when there are many other professions and industries similarly providing essential services."
“These extra pay mandates will not do anything to make grocery workers or customers any safer," Fong said. "Rather, there will be significant potential negative consequences.
"These proposals could also harm grocery workers themselves if stores are forced to reduce jobs or hours for employees due to higher costs."
Many grocers have already boosted the hourly pay by an average of $2 to $3 and hour and provided workers with "complimentary groceries, gas and other necessities," the industry group said.
Grocers also have provided "bonuses and generous health benefits" that cover testing, treatment and care, and implemented strict health protocols.
The industry has also boosted employment during the pandemic, the Association said
"Since March, California grocers have added tens of thousands of bridge jobs at a time when millions of Californians needed reliable good-paying work," the group said in a statement.
In approving the extra pay, County Supervisors last week noted that several national grocery store chains offered $2 to $4 hourly raises to employees in March, but the temporary pay hikes ended two months later.
Santa Monica's measure will likely follow the County's lead and target publicly traded companies or those with at least 300 employees nationwide and more than ten employees per store, said Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who placed the item on Tuesday's agenda.
Long Beach is considering a measure that would pay grocery and drug store workers an extra $4 per hour for at least four months.
Los Angeles is proposing a $5 per hour hike until there is "minimal" virus spread in the county, or approximately 100 new cases a day under the Governor's reopening plan.
On Sunday, 12,617 coronavirus cases were confirmed in the County of some 10 million residents.
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