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Told to Provide 'Hero's Pay,' Kroger Opts to Close 2 Stores

Says it will close Ralphs, Food 4 Less locations in Long Beach instead
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 3, 2021 9:05 AM CST

(Newser) – The attempt of Long Beach, Calif., to provide grocery store workers with "hero's pay" is ending with two of the city's grocery stores being permanently shut. NPR reports the Long Beach City Council passed an ordinance last month that requires certain large grocery stores to pay local workers an extra $4 an hour for at least the next 120 days—and Kroger said no way. Instead it will on April 17 shutter two "long-struggling" Ralphs and Food 4 Less stores that fall under its umbrella. The Long Beach Post reports the move will impact nearly 200 workers, though it's possible some will be transferred. On top of that, though, is the neighborhood impact: The North Long Beach area near Food 4 Less is considered a food desert, and many locals lack cars with which to drive elsewhere.

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"This misguided action by the Long Beach City Council oversteps the traditional bargaining process and applies to some, but not all, grocery workers in the city," said a company rep who decried the city's "attempt to pick winners and losers." Kroger defended the moves it has made in support of its employees during the pandemic, including $1.3 billion spent on health protocols and employee bonuses in addition to a $15 Million Helping Hands fund. CBS News reports the California Grocers Association is suing the city over the "unconstitutional" ordinance that it says doesn't comply with a collective bargaining agreement between grocery stores and unionized workers. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia tweeted in reply, "Grocers are making record profits. We go to court this month and we will defend the workers vigorously." (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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