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Santa Monica Could Boost Pay for Grocery, Drug Store Workers

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

January 7, 2021 -- Local workers at large grocery and drug store chains could soon get an additional $5-an-hour "hero pay" during the coronavirus pandemic under a proposal the City Council will consider Tuesday.

Proposed by Councilmember Kevin McKeown, the measure would mirror a temporary urgency ordinance Los Angeles County Supervisors are poised to approve for unincorporated areas on January 26.

"My motion, if successful, means that when a final emergency ordinance is enacted by the County, we will already have Santa Monica City Council approval to move forward locally alongside the County," McKeown said.

The County ordinance targets companies that are large enough to be publicly traded or have at least 300 employees nationwide and more than ten employees per store, according to a report by City News Service.

Supervisors noted Tuesday that several national grocery store chains offered $2 to $4 hourly raises to employees in March, but the temporary pay hikes ended two months later.

An ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases is putting the frontline workers at risk of becoming infected in the workplace, McKeown said.

"Increasing COVID transmission makes frontline work in groceries and drugstores now riskier than ever," McKeown said. "These are loyal employees already disproportionally impacted by the economic challenges of this pandemic.

"Resumption of temporary 'hero pay' will provide them needed relief and acknowledge the service they bravely continue to provide to our residents and their families.”

In Santa Monica, there have been 21 confirmed coronarvirus cases at the Whole Foods Market on 23rd Street and Wilshire Boulevard, according to County health data.

At Tuesday's Board meeting, Supervisors cited a Brookings Institution analysis of 13 companies that showed top retailers saw profits jump an average of 40 percent last year, according to KTLA.

The companies included two large national grocery chains, Walmart, Target and Amazon.

Santa Monica is not the only City enacting temporary pay raises. Long Beach is considering a measure that would pay grocery and drug store workers an extra $4 per hour for at least four months.

Los Angeles is proposing a $5 per hour hike until there is "minimal" virus spread in the county, or approximately 100 new cases a day under the Governor's reopening plan.

On Tuesday, 11,841 coronavirus cases were confirmed in the County of some 10 million residents.

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