On January 19th, the do-gooder Long Beach City Council had an ingenious plan to reward those essential workers who have been forced to brace the pandemic to keep grocery stores running for the past year. Their genius idea: Simply force supermarkets to give these workers another $4 an hour for the next four months! Undoubtedly clapping each other on the backs for cutting through the complications of the free market, the city council approved the measure and had the mayor release a congratulatory statement.
“These folks that are working at these markets and these grocery stores are heroes,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “This is nothing new. They have received this type of additional pay in the past and if they deserved it in the past, they deserve it today.”
It’s not immediately clear what “past” Garcia was referring to, but nonetheless, the city council’s actions did not exactly work as intended.
Though they did work exactly as expected.
“As a result of the City of Long Beach’s decision to pass an ordinance mandating Extra Pay for grocery workers, we have made the difficult decision to permanently close long-struggling store locations in Long Beach,” said Kroger in a statement. “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. These misguided mandates could put any struggling store in jeopardy of closure.”
Yikes. Turns out those “essential workers” weren’t so essential, after all.
In a statement this week, the California Grocers Association ripped into the council’s decision.
A $4/hour increase represents about a 28 percent increase in labor costs for grocers,” said CGA chief Ron Fong. “There’s no way grocers can absorb that big of a cost increase without an offset somewhere else, considering grocers operate with razor thin margins and many stores already operate in the red. The Long Beach City Council put politics ahead of families and jobs in the middle of a pandemic. This was entirely avoidable.”
If the Long Beach City Council was so determined to make sure these grocery store workers were rewarded for their heroism, they should have announced that THE CITY was going to pay them directly our of taxpayer funds. Forcing private businesses to basically give their employees welfare? That’s never going to work, especially when you have companies like Walmart and Target exempt from the mandate. Now these workers, instead of making $4 more an hour, are going to make nothing.