The L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance that would add a $5-per-hour “hero pay” increase for hourly frontline workers in unincorporated L.A. County.

The motion, which was co-authored by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Holly Mitchell, would apply to grocery and drug retail stores that are publicly traded, or have at least 300 employees nationwide and more than 10 employees per store.

“Grocery and drug retail employees have continued to report to work and serve our communities, despite the ongoing hazards and dangers of being exposed to COVID-19,” Solis said. “These workers, many of whom include older adults and single mothers, have put their lives on the line since the beginning of the pandemic to keep our food supply chain running and provide access to medicine our families need. Many are working in fear and without adequate financial support, while their employers continue to see profits grow and top executives receive steep pay bonuses.”

The board passed the motion with a 4-1 vote and Supervisor Kathryn Barger being the one opposing vote, arguing that the order could affect consumers through price hikes and a reduction in employee hours.

“Stores can pass on additional labor costs to the public through price increases,” Barger said. “However, they may also reduce the hours of the impacted workers or decrease the number of employees that they hire.”

UFCW Local 770, which represents workers at several L.A. County Ralphs and Food 4 Less locations said the grocery stores saw a sales increase of 15.8% over the past year and criticized them for ending the $2 “hazard pay” in early April, at the start of the pandemic.

“I want to thank the LA Board of Supervisors for standing with grocery and pharmacy workers and recognizing their essential work during this pandemic even as they face tremendous risks,” John Grant, president of UFCW 770, said in a statement. “We have lost too many members to this virus and no end is in sight. The lack of hazard pay is even more shameful as these grocery and pharmacy companies have seen their sales surge. Passing this measure in Los Angeles County is a good first step in the fight for safety and respect for our members and all workers –union and non-union–, who are on the frontlines keeping our communities fed.”

A similar order was passed in Long Beach this January with a $4-per-hour increase for grocery workers, which led to Kroger announcing it would close two of its stores in the city. A week later, Trader Joe’s announced that it would be providing $4-per-hour “Thank You Pay” to all of its employees nationwide.

Supervisor Solis said the order will expire in 120 days after going into affect.

LA Weekly