The City Council plans to consider Tuesday whether to impose a “hero pay” requirement to food and medication retailers in Glendale, a trend that is taking off throughout Los Angeles County as the coronavirus pandemic has passed its anniversary this month.
A number of cities in Southern California have enacted a hero pay ordinance in recent months, including Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Irvine and Costa Mesa. Additionally, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors enacted a hero pay ordinance on national grocery retailers that are in the unincorporated parts of the county.
Councilwoman Paula Devine asked last week for a report on possibly implementing hero pay in Glendale, with Councilman Dan Brotman offering the endorsement necessary to make it happen.
“They have faced heightened risk on their jobs during the pandemic, so I would like to reward them,” Devine said at the March 9 meeting. “A lot of them haven’t even been vaccinated. These grocery workers have been in the front line during this pandemic and we all are aware of the increase in sales of these large grocery stores.”
Long Beach enacted the first hero pay ordinance in L.A. County on Jan. 22, mandating a $4 per hour raise for grocery stores. L.A. County’s ordinance was passed on Feb. 23 and requires a $5 per hour raise for publicly traded grocery stores or retail drug companies, and also such companies with at least 300 nationwide employees and 10 employees at a local store. The L.A. City Council’s ordinance also levies a $5 per hour raise.
There will be a handful of discussion points on such an ordinance, including how much the pay boost is and what stores are targeted. In addition to a number of chain retailers, Glendale also boasts a large number of smaller neighborhood markets. The length of the ordinance will also be a question; some of the ordinances passed in the region run for 120 days.
Given that vaccine availability is increasing and also that it’s been more than a year now that workers have been making sure shelves are stocked, council members aimed to consider this decision as soon as possible.
“Given where we are in the pandemic — hopefully we’re going to be coming out of this sometime this summer or early fall, at the latest — there’s some urgency to bring this back,” Brotman said, asking for it to be considered on March 23 if possible.
Added Devine: “Maybe we can make this an emergency ordinance so that it goes into effect immediately when we approve it.”
The agenda item for this coming meeting lists the ordinance as an urgency ordinance, which requires at least four affirmative votes instead of the usual three to take effect immediately.
The decision will likely invite some risks. The California Grocers Association has filed lawsuits against several cities to overturn the ordinances, while Kroger closed two stores in Long Beach after that city enacted its hero pay law.
Kathryn Barger, the county supervisor for the 5th Supervisorial District that includes Glendale, cast the sole vote against the county’s hero pay ordinance, saying that stores often pass added labor costs onto customers by raising prices and also by reducing hours or its labor force.
A handful of public commenters last week were supportive of hero pay. Most of them said they worked at grocery stores or drug stores in Glendale.
“All we’re asking for is just a little compensation,” said Roy Velasquez, who works at the Ralphs on Central Avenue. “COVID has affected everybody, whether they contracted the virus or lost loved ones. Other cities have jumped on board to help their employees and compensate for what we’ve done and continue to do. We’ll always put our best foot forward, as we’ve done since the beginning, but we still are exposed to the dangers. It’s about doing the right thing and the moral thing.”
The full agenda report for this item can be viewed on the city’s website, at glendaleca.gov/government/public-meeting-portal.