City staff directed to draft urgency ordinance on hero pay for certain essential workers

PALM SPRINGS — Hero pay for necessary workers in grocery stores and retail pharmacies remains a possibility here after the Palm Springs City Council directed city staff to draft an urgency ordinance for consideration at the Council’s meeting on March 11.

Councilors discussed the issue at its meeting Thursday but made no decision.

The proposed ordinance would require grocery stores and retail pharmacies with more than 300 employees nationally and at least 15 employees per location in Palm Springs to pay their employees an additional $4 per hour for at least 120 days.

Between now and the March 11 meeting, Council members have asked staff to gather more information on the possible impacts of hero pay, including the potential for store closures.

Palm Springs is now among several cities considering a hero pay ordinance.

The other California cities that have recently passed hero pay ordinances include Coachella, Long Beach, Oakland, Montebello, Los Angeles and Berkeley. Some are now facing backlash from employers and industry leaders.

The California Grocers Association, which represents the state’s grocery industry, sued Long Beach in federal court over that city’s hero pay ordinance.

The Association sought a preliminary injunction and argued that the ordinance, enacted Jan. 19, is unconstitutional because it singles out certain grocers and ignores other groups that employ essential frontline workers, violating the constitutional requirement that similarly situated people be treated alike.

On Thursday, a federal judge denied the Association’s request to temporarily overturn the Long Beach ordinance.

In other action in Long Beach, Kroger announced it would close a local Ralphs and Food 4 Less in the community as a result of the city’s hero pay ordinance.

Palm Springs’ proposed ordinance is modeled primarily after the Long Beach ordinance.

During a special Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday, leaders cautioned that similar closures could happen here if hero pay is approved.

Matt Zack, representing Jensen’s at the special meeting, said closing Jensen’s in Palm Springs would be a possibility. He said the store has already been paying staff an additional $2 per hour during the pandemic.

Councilmember Geoff Kors said if the City Council proceeds with the hero pay ordinance for large employers, the city’s frontline workers should also be eligible since the city is also a large employer.

Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton agreed.

“What is good for the goose is good for the gander and this should include city workers who are on the frontlines,” Middleton said. “We are an employer and should be setting an example.”

Mayor Christy Holstege and Councilmember Grace Garner spoke in support of the proposed ordinance with Holstege taking issue with “large corporations that have paid their shareholders and not their workers.”






Image Sources

  • Grocery worker: Shutterstock