City Council unanimously approves hero pay ordinance for Palm Springs grocery workers

PALM SPRINGS — Palm Springs grocery workers in an estimated nine stores will be eligible to receive hero following a unanimous City Council vote on Thursday.

The Palm Springs City Council unanimously approved an urgency ordinance that requires certain grocery stores in the city to provide hero pay for their workers.

The ordinance applies to grocery stores with more than 300 employees nationally and at least 15 employees per location in Palm Springs. The stores will now be required to pay their employees an additional $4 an hour for at least 120 days.

The ordinance stipulates that employers will receive credit if they’ve already provided hero pay for workers, or if they’re currently providing additional pay.

At least 15 other California cities have passed hero pay ordinances, according to City Attorney Jeff Ballinger. This includes the city of Coachella, which was the first in the nation to extend the premium pay to farmworkers.

Long BeachOaklandSan Jose, Berkeley, MontebelloPomona and Los Angeles have all also passed hero pay ordinances in recent weeks, with the amount of additional pay ranging from $3 to $5 per hour.

Hero pay proponents argue that grocery workers have been on the frontlines of the pandemic, risking their lives to make sure people can buy food and other items.

They also maintain that grocers can afford the additional pay, They cite the industry’s increase in profits during the pandemic. A Brookings Institute report found top retail companies, including grocery stores, earned an average of $16.7 billion in profit in 2020 compared to 2019.

In a letter to the City Council, the California Grocers Association argued that the ordinance “would mandate grocery stores provide additional pay beyond what is economically feasible, which would severely impact store viability and result in increased prices for groceries, limited operating hours, reduced hours for workers, fewer workers per store, and most concerning, possible store closures.”

A letter from a law firm representing the grocery industry group referred to the ordinance as “unlawful,” and said that it unfairly targets grocery companies without including other retailers with frontline workers. The association has sued other cities for passing hero pay ordinances.

Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton called the concerns “veiled threats.”

The Palm Springs Hospitality Association opposed the ordinance. Some 101 members of the business community the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce surveyed opposed the ordinance while 21 supported it.

Image Sources

  • Grocery worker: Shutterstock