• Matt Esnayra

CA Grocers Assoc plans to appeal judge's ruling to uphold Long Beach's "Hero Pay" ordinance

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

A US district judge has denied the California Grocery Association's preliminary injunction to reverse Long Beach's "Hero Pay's" ordinance that would require large grocery stores to increase employees' pay an extra $4 an hour for the risk of working during the coronavirus pandemic.

The state of play:

The California Grocery Association (CGA) sued the City of Long Beach in federal court last month, arguing that the hero pays' ordinance was unconstitutional under "both the "U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution's Equal Protection Clauses, which require similarly situated people to be treated alike."

  • The CGS would also argue that the ordinance is preempted by the federal National Labor Relations Act, which protects the integrity of the collective-bargaining process's. The court rejected both arguments.

  • "A preliminary injunction is 'an extraordinary remedy that may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief," U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II said in his ruling.

Why it matters:

Long Beach was the first city to enact such an ordinance for grocery workers who were thrust into frontline essential worker status due to the pandemic. The lawsuit became a legal barometer for other cities enacting similar laws.

What's next:

The CGA's President and CEO Ron Fong said the trade group would "appeal this ruling on the preliminary injunction and look forward to presenting our arguments to the Ninth Circuit in the coming weeks."

What they're saying:

  • Long Beach City Attorney Charles Parkin said, "We are pleased that Judge Wright agreed with the City’s position regarding the critical role grocery store workers play in the community during this time of pandemic and national emergency.” Parkin would go on to say of the judge “He clearly listened to the legal arguments carefully and thoughtfully and was well-versed in the relevant case law on this issue, and in the end came to the conclusion that there was no basis to stop the City from enforcing our ‘Hero Pay’ Ordinance.”

  • Ron Fong, President & CEO, California Grocers Association said via statement to MTLB: “We are disappointed that the Court declined our request for a preliminary injunction and strongly believe our case has merit.The Court noted several potentially problematic aspects of the Long Beach ordinance and stated that its decision was limited. We remain confident that these extra pay ordinances will not withstand legal scrutiny. We intend to appeal this ruling on the preliminary injunction and look forward to presenting our arguments to the Ninth Circuit in the coming weeks.The Court agreed that extra pay mandates will not make grocery store workers any safer, noting in its ruling that the Ordinance ‘does not protect or promote public health’.These ordinances will result in unintended consequences like higher grocery prices for customers and store closures, which are already happening in Long Beach and which will harm grocery workers and consumers.”

  • Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia "We just won our lawsuit and our $4 an hour Hero Pay remains in place for grocery workers."

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