Anaheim Considers Hourly Wage Increase for Some Workers

Anaheim Considers Hourly Wage Increase for Some Workers
A worker re-stocks items at Northgate Gonzalez Market on March 19, 2020 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Jack Bradley

Anaheim, Calif. is the latest Orange County city to consider hazard pay—also known as “hero pay”—for certain employees.

City council will discuss during its May 11 meeting the possibility of a temporary pay hike of $3 to $5 per hour for grocery, retail, and drug store workers.

“While we celebrate [our essential workers] and thank them, what they really need is support in their wages,” Councilmember Jose Moreno, who requested the item, said during an April 27 meeting.

Santa Ana, Irvine, Costa Mesa and Buena Park previously enacted hero pay ordinances. Tustin was the most recent Orange County city to consider such a measure, but council rejected it with a 2-3 vote.

Moreno said while the largest retail grocery chains in the U.S. reaped billions of dollars in profit from the COVID-19 pandemic, the hourly wages of workers increased about $1 on average.

“It was merely not enough, given that many of their spouses and households suffered loss in their incomes,” Moreno said.

Moreno requested the hero pay item be agenized quickly “… given the condition that workers are in with rents and other bills, and that their households have not fully recovered [from the pandemic].”

Irvine became the first Orange County city to approve hero pay in February, followed by Santa Ana’s urgency ordinance in March.

In both cities, grocery and some pharmacy workers are receiving an extra $4 per hour in hazard pay for a period of 120 days.

However, soon after the cities passed hero pay ordinances, they were hit with lawsuits from the California Grocers Association (CGA), declaring the ordinances invalid and unconstitutional by singling out grocers and ignoring other frontline workers.

CGA President Rob Fong has said the mandates will hurt both customers and workers.

“A $4 per hour mandate amounts to a 28 percent average increase in labor costs for grocery stores,” Fong said in a March 17 statement. “That is too big a cost increase for any grocery retailer to absorb without consequence. Options are few. Either pass the costs to customers, cut employee or store hours, or close. Already five stores in Los Angeles County have closed after extra-pay mandates were enacted.”