Anaheim Rejects Hazard Pay Proposal for Grocery Workers

May 20, 2021 Updated: May 20, 2021

City council in Anaheim, Calif. voted to table a hazard pay ordinance that sought to pay grocery and retail workers an extra $3 per hour for 60 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ordinance was initiated by Councilmember Jose Moreno during a May 11 city council meeting, and received support from councilmembers Jordan Brandman and Avelino Valencia. The topic was heavily debated, with the majority of councilmembers opposing the measure.

During council’s May 18 meeting, the hazard pay proposal was agendized both as an urgency ordinance and a traditional ordinance, at Moreno’s request. If the urgency ordinance had passed, the increased payments would have gone into effect immediately. If the traditional ordinance was approved, it would have required a second reading at council’s next meeting before taking effect 30 days later.

During the most recent meeting, Moreno and Valencia spoke in support of the issue, though a motion to table the item was created by Councilmember Trevor O’Neil after he felt the item had already been discussed enough.

“Just last week we had a lengthy discussion on this issue and a majority of this council clearly expressed opposition to an ordinance like this,” O’Neil said. “But here we are considering it again.

“Well, it’s been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. To our staff, I’m sorry that you’re tasked to work on something that we all know has no chance of being adopted when we have so many other important issues to deal with in Anaheim. And to the public, I’m sorry that there are members of this body who chose to waste taxpayer money in this exercise in futility.”

O’Neil’s motion was approved by council in a 4-3 vote, with Moreno, Valencia, and Councilmember Jordan Brandman dissenting.

Prior to the motion being introduced, Moreno shared his reasoning for the proposal.

“What we know is that grocery and drug and retail employees working during COVID…merit additional compensation in part because they were asked by our city, by our county, by our consumers, by our nation to put themselves on the front lines when everyone was being asked to stay home,” Moreno said.

Moreno added that 14 months ago, people were “really freaking out” about the virus, yet workers were still expected to show up to their jobs.

“We also know that less than half of Orange County residents are currently fully vaccinated and the folks who’ve taken the brunt of this virus… [are] low-income folks in our county and folks of color here in our county. Particularly Latino and immigrant families who traditionally work these jobs,” he said.

“The executives of these industries made a lot of money during this period and the workers are not being provided the benefits of their hard work.”

Anaheim is the second Orange County city to reject hazard pay for frontline workers, with the City of Tustin voting against a similar ordinance in April.

Irvine, Costa Mesa, Santa Ana, and Buena Park have enacted ordinances to provide hazard pay.

Anaheim’s proposed ordinance would have only applied to stores whose owners or parent companies have 50 or more national retail establishments.

Follow Drew on Twitter: @DrewVanVoorhis