Supes approve ‘hero pay’ ordinance

A poster bearing COVID-19 preventative measures greets shoppers as they enter the Ralphs Super Market in Castaic on Monday morning, March 16, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

Grocery and drug store workers are set to get “hero pay” after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the urgency ordinance during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

The motion, which passed 4-1, is expected to temporarily require grocery and drug retailers in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, such as in Castaic and Stevenson Ranch, to pay their workers an additional $5 per hour in “hero pay,” or hazard wage. 

County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, was the only one to vote “no,” doing so because of concern with the unintended consequences.

“I am more concerned that we are freely inserting ourselves into financial and accounting decisions made by private companies,” Barger said, adding that these businesses currently report a slim 2.2% profit margin. “I would hate to think that we’re driving the very businesses that we fought so hard to locate in unincorporated areas, many of which are our working-class neighborhoods, out of business, or worse yet, employees, losing hours, or possibly their job.” 

She also mentioned that the motion only represents a small sliver of the essential workforce, adding that it’s unfair to select one sector over others.

The approved ordinance is set to apply to store chains that are publicly traded or employ at least 300 workers nationwide and more than 10 per store, and is expected to be in effect for 120 days.

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