Last week, Kroger, the supermarket giant, announced that it would close two of its grocery stores in Long Beach, California, after the city council passed an ordinance mandating that grocery stores pay their workers an extra $4 an hour for the next 120 days or until the city terminates the measure.
Kroger ended its $2-an-hour hazard-pay policy in May of 2020, preferring to award workers an occasional bonus in the months since, a strategy also adopted by Amazon and Walmart. There have been no moves to reimplement the raises, even as the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, which represents some 1.3 million grocery store workers, says 134 members have died of coronavirus, with thousands more infected.
The Long Beach measure, which was passed unanimously on January 19, 2021, is a means of ensuring extra pay for frontline workers who risk exposure to coronavirus as the pandemic persists across the United States. It applies to grocery stores with more than 300 employees nationwide and more than fifteen per store in the city. It is not the only such ordinance: Seattle, Los Angeles, and Montebello have passed similar laws.
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