Supermarkets Closing in Response to 'Hero Pay' Requirements in Southern California

The cities of Long Beach and Los Angeles are dealing with the fallout from controversial decisions to require extra compensation for grocery store workers during the pandemic.

2 minute read

March 16, 2021, 9:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Grocery Stores

Elliott Cowand Jr / Shutterstock

"Supermarket-chain owner Kroger said it will close three stores in Los Angeles in response to new rules requiring a $5-per-hour pay bump for grocery workers during the pandemic, the latest round of closures it has announced since 'hero pay' mandates emerged earlier this year," report Suhauna Hussain and Dakota Smith.

Kroger is planning to close two Ralphs and a Food 4 Less on May 15. "The company called the three stores “'underperforming' and said the new L.A. city-ordered pay boosts sped up the decision to shut them down," according to the article.

One of the stores targeted for closure is located in a food desert, according to local activists, and the loss of a local grocery store is particularly painful.

Kroger's decisions to close stores in Los Angeles follows shortly after similar closures in Long Beach, where the city is requiring an extra $4 an hour for grocery workers. "Last month, Kroger announced the impending closure of a Ralphs and Food 4 Less in Long Beach, blaming the new pay boosts," report Hussain and Smith.

Advocates on either side of the issue point to reports to make their point. "An analysis released by the city days before the vote noted that the grocery industry is a low-profit-margin sector and warned that companies could respond to the ordinance by closing stores, laying off staff or raising food prices," according to the article.

On the other hand, a U.C. San Francisco study of mortality rates among workers during the pandemic "found that of the front-line labor force, food and agriculture workers faced the highest increase in death. Latino food and agriculture workers were disproportionately affected, experiencing a 59% increase in mortality."

Wednesday, March 10, 2021 in Los Angeles Times

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