WeHo City Council to Consider $5 Per Hour Extra “Hero Pay” for Grocery Workers, but Lawsuit is Likely Looming If Approved

West Hollywood’s City Council on Tuesday night instructed the city attorney to bring back for its approval a draft ordnance regarding additional “hero pay” for frontline grocery workers, but will likely face a lawsuit once it tries to enact the ordinance.

Mayor Lindsey Horvath and Councilmember John Erickson sponsored the item that would authorize a $5 per hour increase in pay for grocery workers for 120 days or until the city declares the coronavirus local emergency to be over, whichever is longer.

“Grocery store workers are essential workers who are needed to ensure the continued functioning of our community. During the COVID-19 crisis, we have seen the significant role grocery stores play in providing access to basic necessities of daily life that we may have previously taken for granted,” reads a memo about the hero pay. “These workers have been forced to face new hazards in jobs not previously considered especially dangerous.”

The ordinance would apply to grocery store chains that are publicly traded or have at least 300 employees nationwide and more than 10 employees per store. That would cover the major grocery chains in West Hollywood – Pavilions (Vons), Ralphs, Gelson’s, Bristol Farms, Whole Food, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s and Smart and Final.

When the pandemic began in March, some essential businesses, including many grocery stores, gave employees $2 to $4 per hour temporary raises. However, by the end of May, most of those businesses ended the extra “hero pay” even though the risk of infection employees face when they come to work did not end.   

The city attorney is to return within 30 days with a draft ordinance for the City Council to consider. If the Council does approve it, the city will likely face a lawsuit over the measure.

On Wednesday, the California Grocers Association (CGA) filed a legal challenge to a similar ordinance which the Long Beach City Council has tentatively approved. The Long Beach measure authorizes an additional $4 in hourly “hero pay” for supermarket workers in that city.

The Long Beach City Council approved the “hero pay” measure on first reading at its meeting on Tuesday with a final vote scheduled for Feb. 2.

The CGA lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, asks the court to declare the pending hazard pay decree invalid and unconstitutional. The CGA also is seeking a preliminary injunction to stop implementation of the ordinance until a judge can rule on the merits of its lawsuit.

The CGA alleges the ordinance is illegal because, by singling out certain grocers and ignoring other groups that employ essential frontline workers, it violates the constitutional requirement that similarly situated people must be treated alike. The CGA also argues that the ordinance is preempted by the federal National Labor Relations Act, which protects the integrity of the collective-bargaining process.

City News Service contributed information for this article.

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metoo
metoo
22 days ago

Just certain essential workers. Not all
If they get away with this — wow

Curtis Beers
Curtis Beers
1 month ago

Pavilions & Ralph’s employees are part of a union and already get paid very well.

Josh Kurpies
Josh Kurpies
1 month ago

CGA claims it’s illegal by singling out some workers not treating them the same as similarly situated people…..Fine, let’s include Rite-Aid, Target, CVS, PetCo, Post Office, Taxi/Uber/Lyft drivers, 7-11, Best Buy, etc. (my apologies to those I’ve missed)

metoo
metoo
22 days ago
Reply to  Josh Kurpies

do not forget health care and hospitals and Buss and trains

voter
voter
1 month ago

The stores would likely lower the number of hours that employees work to make up for the extra $5 per hour. Maybe fire some people and certain curtail any new hiring. Maybe the city council members feel good about themselves with stunts like this, but it doesn’t help anyone in the long run.

Joshua88
Joshua88
1 month ago

Nice to fight, even though it is likely a losing battle.

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago

These are not serious people. Just another silly idea that won’t happen.

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
1 month ago

This sounds good on paper but I am opposed to any government intervention in how the private sector operates their businesses.

Stay out of it!

Weho Truth Talk
Weho Truth Talk
1 month ago
Reply to  Gimmeabreak

People are struggling to pay rent during this pandemic and are becoming homeless. Annoyed about seeing all the tents on the street? Well if people were earning more $, they would not be evicted and become homeless. Grocery store workers need relief now.

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
1 month ago

Grocery stores have stayed open so their workers are likely making the same money they were earning a year ago when a lot of people lost their jobs. If every worker got that raise some of them would probably lose their job because you assume the business can afford that kind of wage increase.

Joe bob
Joe bob
1 month ago
Reply to  Gimmeabreak

How dare you provide common sense. 👍🏻

WeHo Poster
WeHo Poster
1 month ago

Now this is the kind of leadership that West Hollywood needs. These companies have seen record profits during the pandemic–record profits generated by the cashiers, stockers, clerks, butchers, bakers, and other workers at the store who risk infection on a daily basis by going to work. The $5/hr pay increase is a step in the right direction, but real justice would be giving these brave workers a meaningful ownership stake in the company that employs them. For those worried about this nonsense lawsuit, I invite you to open a recent edition of Black’s Law Dictionary and look up “suspect class.”

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
1 month ago
Reply to  WeHo Poster

I don’t know about these “record profits” but imagine if you owned a business and the city council came in and started controlling aspects of your management.

If these wages go up so will the prices to the consumer. That’s you and me!

Pointing
Pointing
1 month ago
Reply to  Gimmeabreak

I appreciate your appeal to entrepreneurs, but come off it. We’re not talking about sole proprietorships. The ordinance would apply “to grocery store chains that are publicly traded or have at least 300 employees nationwide and more than 10 employees per store.”

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
1 month ago
Reply to  Pointing

Makes no difference, Pointing. Wages go up and it comes out of the pocket of some faceless person or persons, and you have no idea what their operating costs are. You are assuming that because they are a chain they have the money to increase what is already their greatest expense; their employees. It’s none of your business how they manage their employees. It is the consumers who will pay for that increase in wages, and some of those employees will lose their jobs to offset the mandated increase. When the pandemic is over and there is no more danger… Read more »

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