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Concord grocery store workers will make $5-per-hour hazard pay – Silicon Valley


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CONCORD — Concord will follow several other California cities in requiring large grocery stores to give workers a “hazard pay” raise of $5 an hour for putting themselves at risk of exposure to COVID-19 by showing up for work during the pandemic.

The ordinance, adopted unanimously by the City Council on Tuesday, will apply only to large grocery stores that employ more than 300 workers nationwide — chains such as Safeway, Trader Joe’s and 99 Ranch Market.

Hazard pay has been adopted in a number of other California and Bay Area cities, including Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro and San Jose, and Santa Clara County. Large grocers have subsequently maintained that the ordinances are unconstitutional for singling out certain grocery stores as the only ones required to pay their workers more.

But members of the Concord City Council agreed at a meeting Tuesday that the ordinance would hold up against any court challenges.

“This is legal for us to do,” said Vice Mayor Dominic Aliano. “The city attorney has done her due diligence on this matter.”

The urgency ordinance goes into effect immediately and will last for either 120 days or until Contra Costa County enters the least restrictive yellow tier in California’s COVID-19 reopening blueprint — whichever comes later.

Lucky’s supermarket, which has a store on Clayton Road, already provides hazard pay of $2.50 to $3.50 an hour, on top of employees’ regular pay. With the passage of Concord’s ordinance, the grocer will be required to raise that to $5 an hour.

Concord City Councilwoman Carlyn Obringer supports an ordinance to provide hazard pay to workers at large grocery stores in the city. (Screenshot)

Union workers showed up in droves during the council’s public comment time to praise essential workers for carrying on in tough times, assuming the stress of handling crowded checkout lines amid a deadly pandemic.

“(Grocery workers) have been there on the frontlines since the very beginning,” said Tom Hansen, a former grocery store worker and current electrician. “When we were sheltered in place and under curfew, they were on the job, providing us with the ability to feed ourselves and our families.”

One person who spoke during public comment suggested there could be economic consequences to the ordinance. The Kroger Company, which owns Ralphs and Food 4 Less, shut down two stores in Long Beach in February after that city approved a mandated wage increase.

Long Beach city later said in a statement that those store locations were already struggling, according to the Southern California News Group.

At Concord’s meeting on Tuesday, supporters of the ordinance urged council members to not let corporate threats scare them off.

Council members agreed. Councilwoman Carlyn Obringer suggested that national grocer corporations have likely done “quite well” amid increased demand during the pandemic.

“For our community to emerge stronger on the other side, we need to take care of our small businesses, and we need to take care of our essential workers,” Obringer said.

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