At its meeting on April 12, 2021, the Alhambra City Council voted to pass a Hero Pay ordinance for grocery and pharmacy workers, making this the third San Gabriel Valley city to adopt a measure honoring frontline retail workers engaged in jobs at high risk for exposure to COVID.
By Chris Olson
Four council members voted in favor of the ordinance, with Vice Mayor Katherine Lee the only abstention.
Alhambra’s ordinance will take effect on May 22 and will extend for 120 days – until September 19. Modeled after similar measures previously enacted by the County of Los Angeles and the City of Long Beach, the law sets a $5.00 per hour rate above the base wage to be paid to workers employed by large retail grocery chains or drug stores that employ more than 10 employees per store. Large corporations that are publicly traded or employ at least 300 workers nationwide are affected by this ordinance, which includes a provision to prevent retaliatory action against employees.
Mayor Sasha Renée Pérez introduced the subject of hero pay for grocery and pharmacy workers in January 2021, barely one month after being sworn into office. Recognizing that their work places these workers at high risk of disease transmission during a major health crisis, and that they play a crucial role in maintaining the food supply, Pérez had hoped to pass this as an urgency measure. Instead, the council heard public testimony over the course of two meetings in February and March before directing staff to return with a draft ordinance. Opponents included the California Grocers Association, which has filed lawsuits against a number of cities that have passed similar measures. Among those speaking in favor of passage was a produce manager at an Alhambra supermarket who described the impact of his work upon his family.
In January 2021, the California Grocers Association filed a federal lawsuit to try to stop the $4.00 per hour hazard pay ordinance in Long Beach, but a judge denied their request for a preliminary injunction before it went into effect. In response, the Kroger Company has elected to close two of its grocery stores in Long Beach; three stores in Los Angeles are slated to close in May.
Chris Olson is a longtime resident of Alhambra, a member of the Alhambra Planning Commission, and a former candidate for City Council. She is employed as a fund development consultant and grant writer.
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