Opinion: The Travesty of the Hero Pay Ordinance

How is it considered “social justice” when hundreds lose their jobs; residents including the elderly, disabled and those on fixed incomes must pay more to fulfill their basic needs; residents with transportation and mobility issues face challenges when local stores close; cities already challenged during the pandemic lose tax revenues that support social programs?

All this happening because the City Council passed its “Hero Pay” ordinance this week giving grocery store workers an extra $5 per hour in pay for the next 120 days.

The promise of store closures because of Hero Pay mandates is not a threat. Kroger has announced the closure of stores it owns because of it – a Ralphs and a Food 4 Less in Long Beach, plus two QFC Food Centers in Seattle.

As store closures in these two cities indicate it is real. Are we so naïve as to think that Trader Joe’s, Sprouts and Whole Foods, each with at least three stores in a three-mile radius of West Hollywood will not consider store closures?

And clearly Kroger, owners of Ralphs, has let their position be known.

And what about the unintended consequences of the very arbitrary nature of this ordinance? Unions have already moved forward to add more retailers to the Hero Pay mandate, including Best Buy. Now I have absolutely nothing against Best Buy and am very appreciative of their knowledgeable and professional staff, but are they more deserving of “hero pay” than nurses or home healthcare workers or teachers? But alas our city has opened that can of worms and now where will it stop?

To be clear, the city staff did virtually no vetting on this issue before the City Council heard it. They certainly did not engage with store management to see how they might react to such an ordinance. The did not sit down with local community members to present any kind of realistic outline of potential impacts to get their feedback. And without any real background on the issue and how it would impact our community, our council voted unanimously to pass the Hero Pay ordinance.

It does beg the question…. exactly who are our council members working for? In this case it is certainly not our local businesses. It is clearly not our residents. And with the threat of tax revenue losses, they are not even acting in the best interests of the city itself.

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