What Can LA do About Stores Closing Due to 'Hero Pay'?

Genius Turner

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With Food4Less & Two Ralphs Stores Closing, Workers Protest in Hopes of Stopping Future Store Closures

LOS ANGELES — "For every loss, there is a hidden gain," Khan said. "And for every gain, there is a hidden loss."

In late February when LA City Council finalized what would come to be known as 'Hero Pay', many Angelenos were thrilled. After all, according to a report by LA's chief legislative analyst, the average grocery store worker in Los Angeles earns less than $20 an hour. But by adding that extra $5, for most cashiers and stockers — "$20+ an hour" has a nice ring to it.

And the mayor seems to agree.

"I absolutely 100% support the Hero Pay for our grocery workers," Mayor Garcetti said. As for why the mayor was so adamant Hero Pay was the right thing to do, he called it answering the demand for essential workers "with any good conscience." The mayor went on to explain:

It [Hero Pay] shouldn't raise food prices because grocery stores are one area that have record profits, more money than they've had before. I hope they will see this and maybe be inspired by it instead of being threatened by it.

According to the mayor, fair is fair! But Kroger disagrees.

"The mandate," according to Kroger, "will add an additional $20 million in operating costs over the next 120 days, make it financially unsustainable to continue operating" Food 4 Less in East Hollywood and two Ralphs stores.

Perhaps here marks a classic case of a gain in Hero Pay for some is a loss in jobs for others. And for those seemingly on the wrong side of this age-old tug of war, which has a yin-yang feel to it, they've taken to protesting.

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Last Thursday afternoon, protesters gathered amid the closing of Food 4 Less in East Hollywood. "$21-Million for a CEO, $0 for Heroes!" read a protester's sign. Indeed, there have been reported cases of Ralphs' workers having died from COVID.

"Grocery retail workers are on the front lines and face a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19," said the chief of Cal/OSHA.

Perhaps the protester's sign and the chief of Cal's plea inspired City Council President Nury Martinez to say, "Fair compensation is the very least that our grocery store workers deserve after all they have done for us."

Amid the fallout, councilmembers introduced a motion to have the city investigate the Kroger Co. Perhaps the timing of Kroger's abrupt closures of three stores, which came curiously on the heels of the announced Hero Pay, explains why the Kroger Co. may have landed in hot water.

Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Marqueece Harris-Dawson — sensing the slippery slope the city could be on, which potentially invites other grocery stores in LA County to follow Kroger's lead — responded by "considering whether it [the city] should take legislative action to address these closures and potentially future closures of other grocery stores . . ." the motion read.

In short, City Council's addressing potential "future closures of other grocery stores" now — instead of later — seemingly strikes at the heart of why protestors were picketing outside of Food 4 Less.

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