Long Beach grocery workers, city officials furious at Kroger for closing stores over 'hero pay'

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Thursday, February 4, 2021
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Grocery workers at a Food 4 Less and a Ralphs store in Long Beach are angry at Kroger Co. for closing the locations after the city passed a "hero pay" ordinance.

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Grocery workers at a Food 4 Less and a Ralphs in Long Beach applauded the city's decision to increase their pay during the pandemic - but come April, they might be out of job.

"After all the hard work I've done to feed the needy families and everything and risk my life and my family's lives at home and they don't want to pay $4 extra an hour for four little months," said Robert Gonzales, who has worked in the industry for 26 years and currently works at the Food 4 Less slated to close.

"And then it's over. What is the reason for this? You're going to hurt the elderly, the homeless people. We give donations every week to the homeless and needy families and they want to take that away,"

Workers and city officials rallied outside one of the supermarkets that the Kroger Co. will close April 17. In a statement, the company said "the irreparable harm that will come to employees and local citizens as a direct result of the city of Long Beach's attempt to pick winners and losers, is deeply unfortunate."

RELATED: Stores closing in Long Beach over 'hero pay' requirement

The Long Beach law applies to companies with 300 or more workers overall and more than 15 employees per location. It's being challenged in court by the California Grocers Association.

"To ask the North Long Beach community to make a choice: Jobs with dignity or food on the table. That's an unfair choice that the Kroger company is issuing to our community," said Rex Richardson, the vice mayor of Long Beach.

The city of Long Beach says Kroger has the money to fund their "hero pay," but they're putting profits over fairness and respect for their essential workers.

"You have a corporation that according to the Brookings Institute is making double the profits. They're making double what they normally make off the pandemic and they're making it on the backs of these workers so these workers deserve heroes pay," said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.

The Los Angeles City Council is moving forward with its own hazard pay ordinance requiring large grocery stores to pay employees an additional $5 an hour. The proposal is being drafted by the city attorney and will require another vote.