Long Beach expected to approve hazard pay for grocery store workers amid COVID-19 surge; L.A. considers similar plan

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The cities of Long Beach and Los Angeles are considering plans that would give grocery store workers hazard pay for the dangers they face amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Long Beach City Council unanimously approved the move Tuesday and hopes to vote on a newly crafted “hero pay” plan at its next meeting in January.

The Long Beach measure is expected to provide workers for companies with at least 300 employees an extra $4 per hour for at least four months.

In a tweet, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said he would approve the hazard pay “as soon as it hits my desk.”

L.A.’s measure would also apply to companies with at least 300 employees nationwide, mandating an extra $5 per hour until the county’s risk level falls to yellow, the tier with minimal risk and the least restrictions under the governor’s reopening plan.

L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez introduced the motion Tuesday, and it’s expected to be voted on in the new year.

“Our grocery store workers ensure so many of us have food and critical items to keep our families fed and safe during this pandemic,” Martinez said in a statement. “Every Angeleno recognizes the importance of the sacrifices and inherent risk they take on our behalf.”

The cities are the two largest in L.A. County, and the change could impact a large number of grocery workers in the region.

Countywide, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has surged 625% since Nov. 1.

During that same period, the average number of new coronavirus cases reported in Long Beach has increased by more than 300%, and the city’s testing positivity and case rates exceed those of Los Angeles County, officials said.

As of Wednesday, the county had confirmed more than 566,000 coronavirus infections and 8,568 fatalities. Long Beach has reported more than 23,000 virus cases resulting in 306 deaths.

“The global health pandemic has emphasized the importance of many workers in industries now highlighted as essential, including front-line grocery workers,” states the motion, authored by Councilwoman Mary Zendejas. “Millions of frontline grocery workers nationwide have had to face new hazards in jobs not previously considered especially dangerous due to the virus.”

Some chains instituted hazard pay early in the pandemic, but most companies ended the wage increases in June.

Meanwhile, the nation’s grocery stores have seen record profits this year. According to the Brookings Institute, top retail companies increased their profits by 39%, averaging an extra $16.9 billion.

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