Grocery Workers in Costa Mesa to Receive Pay Hike During Pandemic

March 18, 2021 Updated: March 18, 2021

Costa Mesa city council approved a hazard pay urgency ordinance March 16, requiring grocers and retail drug stores to boost the salaries of frontline employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ordinance, which takes immediate effect, requires stores to increase the hourly wage of frontline workers by $4 for 120 days. It applies to stores with at least 15 employees locally, or 300 nationwide.

In explaining her support of the measure, Mayor Pro Tem Andrea Marr referred to a quote by Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.”

According to a report presented by city manager Lori Ann Farrell Harrison during the meeting, COVID-19 has killed 116 people in Costa Mesa, and 4,313 people countywide.

Councilmember Don Harper was the motion’s sole dissenting vote.

Harper referenced a study from the University of California–San Francisco, which indicated line cooks have had the highest risk of mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic—even more than health care workers.

The study didn’t break out grocery store or pharmacy workers specifically in its list of the top 25 categories of essential workers who suffered the most mortality rates.

Costa Mesa’s staff report said that “due to the essential nature of grocery stores and retail drug stores, they have remained open during the entire duration of the pandemic. As such, grocery and pharmacy workers are not able to telecommute or work from home, as have workers in other industries. The global health pandemic has highlighted the importance of many workers and industries as essential, including frontline grocery store workers, even during the statewide stay-at-home order.”

Southern California Trend

Several Southern California cities have adopted urgency ordinances to allow for a $4 or $5 hourly increase in pay for grocery and retail drug store workers.

The cities of Long Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana, Berkeley, Coachella, Oakland, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, and the County of Los Angeles, have approved urgency ordinances requiring local grocers to add Hazard Pay to hourly wages provided to grocery workers and some retail drug store workers.

Costa Mesa staff confirmed that they didn’t reach out to any of the grocery stores or pharmacies that would be impacted by the ordinance in preparing their report.

The staff report did note that the California Grocers Association has opposed these urgency ordinances and has filed legal action against cities such as Long Beach and West Hollywood.