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Anaheim grocery, retail and drug store workers could earn an additional $3-$5 an hour for working during the pandemic as the City Council on Tuesday will discuss requiring some businesses to offer a hazard wage increase.
While several Orange County cities, including Irvine, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa and Buena Park have already approved “hero pay” laws, each effective for about four months, Anaheim, the county’s most populated city, has yet to do so.
On April 27, Council member Jose Moreno requested a discussion on the topic to be put on Tuesday’s City Council agenda, with Council members Avelino Valencia and Jordan Brandman agreeing. The council could direct staff to draft an ordinance requiring hero pay to be considered at a future meeting. If an ordinance is eventually approved, that’s when affected workers would receive the additional pay.
Moreno said at the April meeting that while the council claims to support essential workers during the pandemic, it can show its support by increasing their wages. He cited a Brookings Institution study that showed that the top retail companies had a 40% increase in profit and a stock price increase of 33% during the pandemic.
“While the wages of workers went up about a dollar on average, it was clearly not enough given that many of their spouses and households suffered loss in their incomes,” Moreno said.
Moreno told the Voice of OC on Friday that the council will review multiple “hazard pay” ordinances passed by other cities at Tuesday’s meeting and discuss what direction Anaheim should take.
He said the ordinances vary between how much additional pay is offered, how long they are effective and the size of the businesses to which they apply.
Unlike other businesses that have financially struggled during the pandemic, large grocery stores have profited off being a greater necessity for many during the pandemic, Moreno said.
The councilman said that it’s important that the council offers hazard pay even late into the pandemic because workers’ families are still financially struggling, high health risks are still present and that it would be the city’s way to thank them.
“They have not had a moment to stop and sometimes you provide for them a thank you through real means,” Moreno said.
He said while grocery, retail and drug store workers were fortunate to have jobs during the pandemic, they were unable to telecommute to work nor file for unemployment.
Nearly 25 temporary hero pay ordinances have been passed in California, varying based on the amount of additional pay offered and how long the ordinances were in effect, according to the city staff report.
The California Grocers Association has filed lawsuits against some cities that passed hero pay ordinances, including Irvine and Santa Ana.
During a Costa Mesa City Council meeting in March, a representative for the group said the association had already created numerous safety protocols, supplemental pay leave and other forms of bonus pay for grocery store workers.
Anthony Robledo is a reporting intern for Voice of OC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AnthonyARobledo