City Approves ‘Hero Pay’ For Local Grocery Workers

For the next four months, employees at the larger grocery and drug store outlets in Glendale will be paid an extra $5 per hour, under an urgency ordinance dictating “hero pay” to those workers.
The City Council approved the policy on Tuesday, after which it immediately went into effect. The discussion of the ordinance throughout March was borne of other cities throughout Southern California also implementing the hazard pay, which has politically been coined as “hero pay” because of the necessity of grocery stores and drug stores throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
“They have been there since the very beginning of this pandemic,” Councilwoman Paula Devine said during last week’s initial debate, noting that grocery employees have had the highest uptick in workplace mortality. “That is extraordinary and scary. Imagine going to work and knowing that you could die. Very easily, you could become infected and be one of the workers that loses their life over this.”

The ordinance is expected to affect around 1,700 employees in Glendale. The ordinance applies to grocery stores, drug stores or otherwise large retailers that also sell groceries or drug products within a certain percentage of floor space in certain parameters — chiefly, that they are publicly traded or employ at least 300 people nationwide. Additionally, the applicable locations here are those that employed at least 10 workers prior to the adoption of the ordinance.
The ordinance also allows workers to receive the pay bump via paid time off and allows retailers that have voluntarily given raises already to be credited for their amounts. For example, Trader Joe’s already has implemented $4 raises for employees, meaning they will now just have to add a dollar per hour.
Grocery workers and their unions have demanding the hazard pay on account of the risks adopted by continuing to work throughout the pandemic, in order to ensure Americans have continued access to food and medications. Phil Lanzafame, the city’s community services director, added that record net profits by grocery stores this past year has bolstered support for those retailers to pay their workers the extra sum.
“Grocery store and drug store workers have been identified as a group particularly at risk given the conditions in which they work and the potential effects — both physical and psychological — of their working environment,” he said at last week’s presentation. “They are essential in the sense that they are maintaining the food chain, the supply chain of food and medicine that we all need to continue with a healthy life. It’s been especially heightened with the closure of restaurants, more people getting food and preparing it at home.”
Opposition to the ordinance came from public commenters concerned either with government overreach in general or that less profitable stores would close as a result. Kroger infamously shuttered two stores in Long Beach after that city enacted a hero pay ordinance, although the chain claimed those stores were already at risk for closure for low profits.
Councilman Ara Najarian indicated support for the ordinance after being satisfied that lawsuits filed by the grocery store lobbies against other cities were unlikely to succeed.
“I am fairly confident that the case of the [California] Grocers’ Association against Long Beach does not have any merit and therefore the same would apply to the city of Glendale if this is voted on and enacted tonight,” he said Tuesday. “I’m resting easier that the liability to the city is — you can never say zero — very remote.”
The ordinance was unanimously approved on Tuesday night.
“On the evening before the anniversary of Cesar Chavez’ birthday, I will cast a very appropriate yes vote for this,” Councilman Ardy Kassakhian said.