Kroger closes five stores in California cities that require ‘hero pay’

Los Angeles told retailers and pharmacies they need to pay employees a $5 per hour hazard pay.

Grocery store chain Kroger announced that it was shutting down five stores in Southern California after cities approved ordinances requiring retailers to pay a “hero pay.”

Kroger closed two stores in Long Beach on Saturday: a Ralphs and Food 4 Less in Long Beach, California. Kroger, which is the largest supermarket chain in the U.S. with nearly 2,800 stores in 35 states, stated that the city-mandated $4 “hero pay” increase was to blame for the store closings.

“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 a spokesperson for Kroger several weeks ago, the Epoch Times reported. “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.”

In January, the Long Beach City Council and the city’s Democratic Mayor Robert Garcia approved a “hero pay” ordinance that increased wages by $4 per hour. The COVID-19 pandemic-related pay increase included employees of pharmacies and retail stores with 300 or more employees in the southern California city.

The California Grocers Association attempted to stop the pay increase but was denied by a federal judge in February. U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II concluded, “CGA utterly fails to address why the ordinance is not an appropriate means for … fairly compensating grocery workers for the hazards they encounter as essential workers.”

Union leaders claimed that Kroger is punishing workers and the communities.