Council Approves $5 Extra Per Hour ‘Hero Pay’ for Frontline Grocery Store Workers

UPDATE: The California Grocers Association filed a lawsuit against the city of West Hollywood on Wednesday over the hero pay.

With a unanimous vote on Tuesday night, West Hollywood’s City Council approved requiring grocery stores add $5 extra per hour to its employees pay for the next 120 days.

Being called “hero pay,” the extra money is because frontline grocery workers play a significant role in keeping the community functioning during the coronavirus pandemic. Grocery workers now face the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 whenever they come to work; thus they encounter new dangers in a job that was not previously considered dangerous.

Councilmember Sepi Shyne said the extra pay should be considered “hazard pay” rather than “hero pay.”

“Right now in the middle of a pandemic, I can’t think of a more hazardous place to be than a grocery store,” said Shyne, who called it a matter of social justice.

Councilmember John Erickson agreed it was a social justice issue, noting that many grocery store employees are black or Hispanic.

Meanwhile many grocery chains are reporting record high profits during the pandemic since more people are eating at home.

The ordinance would apply to grocery store chains that are publicly traded or have at least 300 employees nationwide and more than 15 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.

However, Trader Joe’s has been paying its employees an additional $2 per hour in “thank you” pay continuously since the pandemic began in March 2020. In January, the company added another $2 per hour onto that “thank you” pay. The Council opted to only require Trader Joe’s pay its employees an additional $1 per hour so that it ultimately matches the $5 per hour being required of the other grocery stores.

The Council wanted to expand the ordinance to include other big-box national chains in the city like Target, CVS, Rite Aid and Best Buy. However the city attorney said she would need time to come up with the proper language for an ordinance to cover those retailers and would come back with a separate item at the next Council meeting.

Of the seven people speaking during public comment, only two opposed it. Genevieve Morrill, president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, called it “government overreach.” She said the city did minimal outreach to the businesses about this item.

Likewise, Nick Rimedio, the chair of the WeHo Chamber’s board of directors, said it was a well-intentioned but bad policy. “It’s the wrong policy at the wrong time for the wrong reasons,” he said.

The other five public commenters supported the increase. Among them was WeHo Ralphs employee Alice Juarez, who said she had to cut her hours from full-time to part-time because the stress of possibly exposing herself to COVID every time she came to work was too much for her.

Rachel Torres of the United Food Workers union supported the pay increase, saying ten of its members have died due to COVID.

In January, Long Beach passed a $4 per hour hero pay increase. The California Grocers Association (CGA) filed a legal challenge to that ordinance which is scheduled to be heard by a judge this week.

It is unknown if CGA will file a similar lawsuit against the West Hollywood ordinance.

Also in response to the Long Beach ordinance, the Kroger Company announced it was permanently closing two of the Long Beach grocery stores it owns – a Ralphs and a Food 4 Less – putting 200 employees out of work.

Erickson pointed out the two stores Kroger closed were in poorer black and Hispanic neighborhoods, suggesting this was a bullying tactic to intimidate employees. He suggested Kroger would never do something like that in a predominantly white neighborhood.

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cicinla
cicinla
8 days ago

the government making more decisions about private businesses? this is disgusting.

Eric Jon Schmidt
Eric Jon Schmidt
11 days ago

It’s time for Wehoville to shut down. Since Hank left, it has become irrelevant, irresponsible in reporting and politically selective when posting comments. I personally will boycott all businesses who advertise on Wehoville and include the failure and fall of Wehoville under it’s new management (notice I didn’t use the word leadership) in our book to be released next year. wehoeric.com

Randy
Randy
11 days ago

Eric, we thought you moved out of WeHo. Will you please just leave us alone? I don’t think anyone advertising on this site will care if you boycott them, nor will anyone read your book.

Eric Jon Schmidt
Eric Jon Schmidt
11 days ago
Reply to  Randy

I still own property on SMB in WEHO from the east border to the literal (within inches) west border. which will soon be developed. I am a stakeholder. I and my reps have just as much of a right to our opinion as those who live in City limits. While I don’t live there, I can see it from my home. It would take five minutes for me to declare my residence in WEHO and run for CC again. I would love to see WEHO live up to it’s potential. No one has ever challenged the current leadership. The audience… Read more »

Vigilant
Vigilant
10 days ago

Not too long ago you seemed to be in a battle with Hank Scott. Now you feel that James Mills careful articles are irrelevant?

Agreed, everyone is entitled to their opinions but in the previous election no one seemed interested in your opinions hence the scant vote tally. One can be great on criticism but then folks that vote need to support such an individual and be part of their team. This evidently didn’t work out so its possible…one can always sell books.

Randy
Randy
9 days ago
Reply to  Vigilant

Vigilant, well put, and much more succinct than I was able to be!

Randy
Randy
9 days ago

Eric, I never said you don’t have a right to be here. I simply asked you to leave us alone. I has been so nice and quiet here, the last few months, without your rhetoric and BS.  I’m not sure what purpose you think you are serving, but you have attacked members of this community, this publication’s former editor and publisher and abused our local Democratic process, for your own personal gain and attention. Sounds like you made amends (maybe), and now you are here, again, attacking the publication. If you don’t like it here, please, please, boycott it, stay… Read more »

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
9 days ago
Reply to  Randy

Well, at least he’s learned write without all those random capitalized words. So there’s that!

Vigilent
Vigilent
9 days ago
Reply to  Randy

A veritable petri dish waiting for a professional stability evaluation. The extremes some folks will resort to for attention is degrading to the human spirit.

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
12 days ago

And the next day West Hollywood was sued. Another drain on our city’s dwindling tax dollars while our storefronts are vacant and homeless are sleeping on our sidewalks. Way to go.

FJ1
FJ1
10 days ago

Yup. So misguided and so going in the wrong direction.

FJ1
FJ1
12 days ago

I would like to know what happened to my comment regarding councilmember Erickson and his behavior at the city council meeting ? Is it being censored?

Webmaster
Admin
12 days ago
Reply to  FJ1

The site was moved to a new server yesterday to make improvements and add new features. Comments from recent days were lost. Feel free to repost all comments.

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
11 days ago
Reply to  FJ1

Please repost…I missed it.

FJ1
FJ1
10 days ago

I commented on the behavior of Councilmember Erickson. At one point during the meeting he declared that if anyone didn’t think exactly the way he did about affordable housing they he couldn’t speak to them and it was between them and their god. The shear arrogance, self-righteousness, belief in his own moral superiority. It was disgusting. People have valid concerns over building that are going to be up to seven stories towering over single and 2story homes. Adding 100 units with zero parking for their residents. Those are valid concerns. No one is against affordable housing but we want it… Read more »

Vigilent
Vigilent
10 days ago
Reply to  FJ1

Please tell us at what time point during the meeting Erickson made this seemingly highly inappropriate, narrow minded comment.

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
9 days ago
Reply to  FJ1

Completely agree. He’s childish and his arrogance has only been emboldened by winning a council seat. I hope all will see him for what he truly is – we have four years of this to experience! And Horvath supports him 100 percent. Thanks for the repost.

Vigilent
Vigilent
9 days ago

Religious studies, gender studies and the ilk all critically important in leading a small municipal government? Residents should pull out the resumes of city council members and give them a fresh read. Who has or had the basic tools to encounter and or help mitigate any occurrence challenging the city and broader community such as a pandemic or other cataclysmic disaster.

Gimmeabreak
Gimmeabreak
12 days ago

“CITY COUNCIL” Approves Extra Pay for Grocery Workers!

Does no one see what a slippery slope this is? Are these stores owned and operated by the city? If this isn’t government over-reach I don’t know what is. And it appears it is just fine with everybody.

FJ1
FJ1
12 days ago
Reply to  Gimmeabreak

It’s crazy…the council went after every business with deep pockets.

Last edited 12 days ago by FJ1
Vigilant
Vigilant
11 days ago
Reply to  FJ1

Unfortunately the City did not observe its own UNDEEP pockets or contemplate possible law suits. Easy to spend OPM when one is not held accountable.

Urgently needed, a thorough course in logic for all city council members and a final exam with published results. Two members would likely pass but then the next snafu would likely be allegiance to special interests blurring one’s vision.

Jay
Jay
12 days ago

Kudos to the West Hollywood City Council for their unanimous vote supporting our hardworking local frontline grocery workers!

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