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LA County Could Require Grocery Stores To Pay Workers An Extra $5 Per Hour In Hazard Pay

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Jobs in the grocery industry are actually down slightly from last year in the greater L.A. area. Chava Sanchez/LAist
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Larger grocery chains would have to pay many of their Los Angeles-area workers an extra $5 per hour in temporary “hero pay” under a plan taken up today by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

The requirement would apply to frontline grocery and drugstore workers in the unincorporated areas of the county. Now, county staff has until Jan. 26 to come up with language for a final vote.

Four supervisors on the five-member board voted to move forward with the proposal. Supervisor Kathryn Barger abstained.

The city councils of Long Beach and Los Angeles are considering similar proposals.

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The move comes as L.A. continues to suffer from record-breaking COVID-19 case numbers, with public health leaders now warning residents to assume the virus is “everywhere.” Thousands of local grocery workers have gotten sick, and stores have seen increased outbreaks in recent weeks.

L.A.’s union grocery workers are facing increasingly hazardous conditions, said John Grant, president of United Food and Commercial Workers local 770.

“To wake up every morning and know that you're going into a petri dish of infection — it's basically playing roulette with your family's health,” Grant said. “The huge profits should be shared with those who are exposed."

Many grocery stores provided additional hourly pay in the early months of the pandemic, but California’s grocery industry is now urging local lawmakers to hold off on requiring “hero pay.” Employers say increased labor costs could lead to higher food prices at a time when many are already struggling to afford necessities.

“With all of this insecurity and unemployment, this is not the right time to put a cost increase on people that go to their grocery stores for the essentials,” said Ron Fong, president of the California Grocers Association.

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Should it pass, the L.A. County ordinance would apply to grocery and retail drug companies that are publicly traded, or ones that have at least 300 employees nationwide and more than 10 employees per location. The temporary pay bump would remain in place for 120 days after the order takes effect.

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