LOS ANGELES - The California Grocers Association Wednesday filed a legal challenge to an ordinance tentatively approved by the Long Beach City Council mandating an additional $4 in hourly "hero pay" for supermarket workers who face greater risk performing their jobs in the COVID-19 pandemic.
The council approved the measure on first reading Tuesday; a final vote is scheduled for Feb. 2.
The CGA lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, asks the court to declare the pending hazard pay decree invalid and unconstitutional. The CGA also is seeking a preliminary injunction to stop implementation of the ordinance until a judge can rule on the merits of its lawsuit.
The CGA alleges that the ordinance is illegal because, by singling out certain grocers and ignoring other groups that employ essential frontline workers, it violates the constitutional requirement that similarly situated people must be treated alike. The CGA also argues that the ordinance is preempted by the federal National Labor Relations Act, which protects the integrity of the collective-bargaining process.
"Grocery store workers are frontline heroes, and that's why grocers have already undertaken a massive effort to institute measures to make both workers and customers safer in stores," said Ron Fong, the CGA's president and CEO. "But this ordinance is clearly illegal in that it interferes with the collective-bargaining process and singles out only certain grocers while ignoring other retail workers and workers in other industries providing essential services during the pandemic."
Fong said firefighters, police officers and health care workers, as well as transportation, sanitation and restaurant workers, are essential, "yet grocers are the only businesses being targeted for extra pay mandates. We look forward to our day in court to contest the legality of this ordinance."