SANTA MONICA—On Tuesday, January 5, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which enacts ordinances, sets salaries, and establishes specific regulations, approved the idea of paying essential workers in grocery and drug stores operating in unincorporated areas an additional $5 an hour, which has been deemed “hero pay.”

County supervisors, Hilda Solis and Holly Mitchell, introduced the proposition and indicated immediate action is necessary when considering sacrifices and infection rates. They deemed the grocery and drug retail workers as “heroes of this pandemic” even though they are paid low wages.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, frontline grocery and drug retail workers have continued to show up to work despite the dangers of being exposed to COVID-19,” said Solis. “Because of their work on the frontlines, families throughout the county have been able to access food and medicine they need during this pandemic.”

“In March, several grocery store corporations offered $2 to $4 hourly raises to employees at the outset of the pandemic. This increase lapsed in May, while profits – and COVID-19 cases – have surged.”

It was explained that while grocery retailers themselves have not been heavily impacted, the “workforce that consists of low-wage workers who have been disproportionately impacted by the economic fallout of this pandemic, with nearly half reporting challenges paying their bills and roughly a third having trouble paying their rent or mortgage.”

The supervisors noted that the decree may not apply in incorporated Los Angeles County cities due to jurisdictional limitations. As a result, cities will be required to take action. During a Friday meeting, Councilmember Kevin McKeown said he would prepare Santa Monica to be able to participate.

“Even as I prudently shelter at home, I must make necessary trips to grocery stores and pharmacies,” said McKeown. He stated that he is “reminded that market and drugstore employees are risking their health and their families to make sure Santa Monicans stay fed and healthy.”  He realizes that the rapid transmission rate makes work more risky. 

“The ordinance returning to the County Supers on the 26th may be even more specific, but so far the direction given Tuesday applies to companies that are large enough to be publicly traded or have at least 300 employees nationwide and more than ten employees per store. These are big employers,” McKeown explained. “Under the County proposal as submitted so far, the big employers would absorb the cost.”