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Irvine City Council Passes Ordinance Requiring Grocery Employers to Pay Temporary Hazard Pay; Republican Council Members Both Vote No

Farrah Khan

It’s important to note that the vote on this critical issue showed that Republicans Mike Carroll and Anthony Kuo voted “no” on this issue — and I’m almost certain Kuo’s vegetable garden isn’t nearly big enough for him not to go to a grocery store.  Carroll defends his use of Taxpayer dollars for COVID19 mail that promoted him while voting against those front line workers at our grocery stores and pharmacies.

Nice to see the three Democrats vote together on this initiative to open doors for other cities in Orange County to follow.

From the union’s press release:

The City of Irvine voted to require grocery and drug store employers to pay workers an additional $4 per hour in temporary hazard pay wages for 120 days. Irvine joins a growing wave of cities recognizing frontline workers are the ones who keep our communities going with food and supplies in the middle of a deadly pandemic and the risks they undertake in doing so.

“As more cities and counties move forward with hazard pay ordinances, we applaud the City of Irvine for taking this important step in recognizing the risks grocery and drug store workers face performing their essential job duties,” said Andrea Zinder, President of UFCW Local 324. “Companies like Kroger ended hazard pay in mid-May of 2020 as profits soared and COVID-19 cases surged, deciding to instead spend their earnings on stock buybacks rather than recognizing the workers that contributed to their success. This temporary wage increase shows workers that their elected officials stand behind them and are grateful for the jobs they do to keep our communities fed.”

report by the Brookings Institution shows the momentum building around hazard pay mandates to fairly compensate workers for the risks they take going to work during the pandemic. Irvine joins a dozen other cities in California and nationwide like Long Beach, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco and Seattle, WA. Threats from companies like Kroger and the California Grocers Association will not stop workers from calling on more cities to support hazard pay for their hard-working grocery and retail employees.

“For almost a year now, we’ve been working these demanding jobs, exposed and under very stressful conditions as more and more of my co-workers get sick ­– eight of my co-workers were out sick at one time,” said Jose Ortiz, a 29-year employee and Meat Manager at Albertsons. “My son and daughter also work at grocery stores in Irvine, and I worry about them and if either of us will be next.”

UFCW Local 324, representing grocery workers in Irvine, has seen infection rates increase among its members drastically throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 1,800 grocery workers within the union have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 2020, and many members of the union have been hospitalized or lost their life. An additional 330 drug store members have also become sick from COVID-19 during the past year.

The call for hazard pay garnered the support of the residents, community and religious leaders who together rallied to support workers during public comment.