Kroger-owned Ralphs and Food 4 Less recently announced that they will be closing two of its stores in Long Beach after Mayor Robert Garcia approved a city ordinance that would impose a $4 “hero pay” salary boost for companies with over 300 employees nationwide or 15 employees per store.
The city argued that employees deserved “premium pay” for working during the coronavirus pandemic and that it would result in better retention for essential workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.
“As a result of the City of Long Beach’s decision to pass an ordinance mandating Extra Pay for grocery workers, we have made the difficult decision to permanently close long-struggling store locations in Long Beach,” said a company spokesperson. “This misguided action by the Long Beach City Council oversteps the traditional bargaining process and applies to some, but not all, grocery workers in the city,” a Kroger spokesperson said.
Kroger wrote that they were already compensating employees after issuing a $2 pay boost at the start of the pandemic. They spent about $1.3 billion to implement dozens of coronavirus-related safety measures, compensate associates, provide additional benefits to employees, and paid emergency leave.
The companies’ $14 million Helping Hands fund also provides financial support to associates experiencing hardships due to COVID-19, on top of competitive wages, strong health care coverage, and a reliable pension benefit.
Kroger talked about the “irreparable harm” that will come to employees and local citizens as a result of the City Council’s attempt to pick winners and losers. “We are truly saddened that our associates and customers will ultimately be the real victims of the city council’s actions,” continued the company spokesperson.
The California Grocers Association also filed a lawsuit against the ordinance, arguing that it was both unconstitutional and in violation of federal collective bargaining rules. They said it would not do anything to boost the safety of workers and eventually lead to higher costs for consumers. It singles out certain grocers and ignores other groups that employ essential workers while violating the constitutional requirement that people must be treated alike.
The permanent closures will happen on April 17 for long-struggling locations and will impact nearly 200 employees between the two locations. Kroger Ralphs Division spokesman John Votava said they would do everything they can to take care of associates, but that it may result in layoffs. Four other Ralphs stores and two Food 4 Less stores will continue to operate in the city.
With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, potential job losses have caused high volumes of stress for essential workers. Here we have a worst-case scenario of government overreach and employees ultimately paying the price. This is what the left voted for.