Anaheim retail, grocery and drug store employees will not receive a $3 an hour temporary pay raise for working during the pandemic.
While the Anaheim City Council began discussing two hazard pay ordinances at Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman Trevor O’Neil motioned to table the item. He characterized continuing the discussion as “ridiculous,” saying the majority of the council already expressed opposition to the item on May 11.
“It’s been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” O’Neil said. “To our staff, I’m so 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 there are members of this body who chose to waste taxpayers’ money in this exercise in futility.”
O’Neil’s motion passed 4-3, ending the discussion on the item and any further consideration of the proposed ordinances.
On May 11, Councilman Jose Moreno asked city staff to draft two ordinances — with support from two other council members — offering hazard pay for 60 days after the remaining four council members said they were against the idea.
One of the proposed laws was an urgency ordinance that would have taken effect immediately if council members had voted to approve it Tuesday night. The other was a regular ordinance, that could have gotten an initial vote Tuesday, and, if approved, would take effect 30 days after a second vote at the next council meeting.
“The executives of these industries made a lot of money during this period and the workers were not being provided the benefits of their hard work,” Moreno said at Tuesday’s meeting. “We’re not out of the woods and these are the folks that are going to be most at risk by continuing to work.”
Anaheim, Orange County’s most populated city, became the second town in the county to turn down the idea of passing a hazard pay ordinance after Tustin, which rejected a proposed law in a 3-2 vote on April 20.
Irvine, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa and Buena Park have already passed “hero pay” laws, each effective for about four months and set to expire by July.
The proposed Anaheim ordinances would have only impacted companies that have 50 or more establishments nationwide in order to protect small businesses from being impacted, according to a city staff report.
Moreno and Councilman Avelino Valencia were the only two council members who discussed their opinions on the pending law prior to O’Neil’s motion.
Moreno said that according to maps from California’s COVID-19 vaccination progress portal, while residents who live in the hills area of Anaheim are largely vaccinated, 60% of those in the flatlands have not gotten their shots. Moreno added that people in the flatlands of Anaheim are the least vaccinated in the county.
Valencia said that hazard pay is a complicated topic. He said the ordinances weren’t perfect but he believes they support workers, are sensitive to the unique needs of small- and medium-size businesses and consider the current COVID-19 dynamics in the city.
On May 11, O’Neil said it was unfair for the city to only focus on grocery, retail and drug store workers when there are thousands of people who lost their jobs.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324 released a statement Tuesday night claiming that the Anaheim City Council sided with greedy businesses over workers.
The statement characterized it as “unconscionable” for O’Neil, Mayor Harry Sidhu, Mayor Pro Tem Stephen Faessel and Councilman Jose Diaz to reject the ordinance.
“It’s front line workers that have borne the brunt of the risks of this pandemic and will continue to as new guidance on mask use and implementation of safety measures will change in the month ahead as our state reopens,” Andrea Zinder, president of Local 324, said in the statement.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that 60% of Anaheim residents who live in the city’s flatlands are vaccinated.