Irvine is the first OK city to approve “heroes” pay for grocery workers

Irvine became the first Orange County town on Tuesday night to approve the “hero payment” for grocery workers.

The council voted 3-2 in favor of an ordinance requiring city grocery store workers to receive an additional $ 4 an hour for 120 days. Councilors Anthony Kuo and Mike Carroll disagreed.

The regulation is due to be finalized in second reading later this month. Irvine City Atty. Jeff Melching said the ordinance will go into effect in about 45 days.

“Since this pandemic began, our food workers have been coming to work, interacting with the public, refurbishing our carts, keeping shops clean, endangering their health and the health of their families, and continue to do so today,” said Mayor Farrah Khan, who heads the Object proposed.

“In Irvine in particular, over 83 workers were infected with the virus at work, including one death. However, we have seen grocery store profits increased significantly during this pandemic. Additionally, many if not all of these businesses have received federal and state funding to help them with this pandemic. Therefore, this regulation will not affect their financial stability. “

The ward council joins several cities across the state as they are evaluating whether a hazard payment is required for food workers.

Last week, Santa Ana got one step closer to approving hero’s salaries for grocery workers, and Los Angeles City Council supported increasing grocery and drug store workers by $ 5 an hour.

Grocery chain Kroger said last week that it would close two of its Long Beach stores if the city made the premium payment mandatory. The California Grocers Assn. has sued Long Beach in federal court and has a hearing scheduled for February 19.

Vice Mayor Tammy Kim pointed out that grocery stores have seen rising profits since the pandemic began, but food workers have seen no personal benefit.

“I know we were talking about some kind of government reach, but if we have to do this to get these big box listed retailers to do the right thing, we just have to do what we have to do because it isn’t so is fair to the workers, ”said Kim.

Hero compensation applies only to grocery and retail stores that employ 20 or more people in the facility and 500 or more people across the country.

Initially, Khan proposed the item as an “Emergency Ordinance”. If approved, the regulation would have taken effect immediately. However, the emergency ordinance would have required at least four votes to pass.

After discussion in the council, Khan changed the point to a regular regulation after Kuo and Carroll were dissatisfied with it.

Both referred to the Long Beach lawsuit and said they were concerned about potential litigation.

Kuo said he was “very uncomfortable” with the lawsuit. Carroll, an attorney, said it was still open to debate whether a city would be allowed to issue an ordinance exercising this type of regulator.

“This appears to be something the legality of which is still under discussion,” said Carroll. “You know, I just put my job hat on, we have a phrase called ‘Set a date for a lawsuit,’ and that’s clearly that.

“I do not see any way in which we can implement this resolution and deliver these benefits or commission these benefits and not be part of a similar and costly lawsuit.”

During the meeting, Khan also pointed out that each council member had received a petition signed by nearly 700 food workers in the city.

Local residents and representatives of the food union made public comments in favor of the article.

“My previous job was actually in healthcare, and honestly, I feel like I’m at higher risk in my current position as a grocer,” said Marisa Marquez, who works in the pavilions at Orchard Hills Mall. “The steps necessary to protect ourselves from COVID-19 are sometimes not taken seriously by the public and endanger everyone. Unfortunately, we lost one of our team members to COVID last month and that has been difficult to deal with for a lot of people. “

Some spoke out against the point.

“Is it the responsibility of the Council to identify winners and losers and to change the basic principles of a competitive free market economy?” said John Park, who lives in Irvine. “I think the answer is no.”

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