Fullerton Council to Debate ‘Hazard Pay’ Ordinance

Fullerton Council to Debate ‘Hazard Pay’ Ordinance
A worker pushes shopping carts in a Walmart parking lot in Irvine, Calif., on Feb. 5, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Jack Bradley

Officials in the city of Fullerton are contemplating a temporary “hero pay” wage increase for grocery and retail workers.

The Fullerton City Council will discuss the topic at its June 1 meeting, at the request of councilmembers Jesus Silva and Ahmad Zahra. But other city officials told The Epoch Times the measure is unnecessary.

“It’s a little late,” Councilmember Fred Jung told The Epoch Times on June 1.

Jung noted the state’s reopening date is scheduled for June 15. “If they were so concerned about the heroes, why don’t you do this when we were in the heart of the pandemic last year?” he asked.

“Hero pay,” or hazard pay, is a temporary pay hike, typically ranging from $3 to $5 per hour, intended to compensate frontline employees for working during the pandemic.

Mayor Pro Tem Nick Dunlap said the hero pay ordinance showcases “government overreach,” and would negatively impact businesses and the community.

“I think there are enough regulations and requirements for businesses to operate in California,” Dunlap told The Epoch Times.

“We’re trying to sympathize with and support these businesses who have been down and out during the pandemic, but then on the other hand, we’re smashing them over the head with these increased wages. It’s not right.”

Anaheim was the last city in Orange County to consider a $3 hero pay ordinance. Officials ultimately rejected the proposal during a May 18 council meeting.

In February, Irvine became the first city in the county to approve a hero pay measure, followed in March by Santa Ana’s urgency ordinance. In both cities, grocery workers and some pharmacy employees are receiving an extra $4 per hour in hazard pay for 120 days.

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

Jung pointed out that councilmembers should prevent lawsuits that would affect all taxpayers in the city, rather than seek wage increases for a select few.

It’s the council’s role “to make every effort not to squander the people’s money on preventable lawsuits,” Jung said, and “to advocate for the steady and equitable vaccination of citizens, and not to demand wage increases for the private sector.”

While grocery and retail workers have provided an “extraordinary service for everyone during the pandemic,” it is not the government’s role to step in between the employer-employee relationship, he added.

“Government doesn’t need to step in—not on all things, and certainly not on business matters,” said Jung.

Hero pay ordinances have also been enacted in Costa Mesa and Buena Park.

In nearby Long Beach, the Kroger grocery chain closed down two stores in April after the city’s hero pay ordinance went into effect.