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TimesOC: Orange County cities move forward with ‘hero pay’ for grocery workers

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TimesOC, a newsletter about Orange County, is published Wednesdays and Fridays.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning and welcome to the TimesOC newsletter.

It’s Friday, March 5. I’m Ben Brazil on rotation with my colleagues, editors John Canalis and Carol Cormaci, to bring you the latest roundup of Orange County news and events.

As we near the one-year anniversary of California’s first stay-at-home order, it’s become clear that not all heroes wear capes. Some have nametags.

Grocery store employees who come to work every day and interact with hundreds of people despite the health risks have been singled out by several cities in California to receive hazard, or “hero,” pay.

This week, two Orange County cities moved forward with hero pay ordinances that provide an hourly wage hike for grocery and pharmacy workers.

The Santa Ana City Council on Tuesday approved an urgency ordinance requiring grocery store employees in the city to be paid an extra $4 an hour for 120 days.

The ordinance, which is effective immediately, applies to grocery stores and pharmacies with more than 300 workers nationally and more than 15 workers per location in Santa Ana.

Santa Ana is the second city in Orange County to approve hazard pay for grocery workers. Irvine approved a similar ordinance in early February. Buena Park also approved a wage hike last week, but the council still needs to take a second vote before it becomes law.

Costa Mesa also decided this week to move forward with hero pay.

After attending a five-hour meeting, Daily Pilot reporter Sara Cardine wrote that the City Council voted in favor of drafting an urgency hazard pay ordinance, which the council will vote on at a later meeting.

Several cities across the state have also been considering hero pay for grocery workers.

The Los Angeles City Council provided initial approval and Los Angeles County approved an extra $5-per-hour wage boost last week for grocery and pharmacy workers.

Oakland, Seattle, Santa Monica, San Jose, Montebello and Long Beach have also approved similar ordinances.

Opponents of the raises have stated that it potentially opens up cities to litigation. The California Grocers Assn. has sued Oakland, Montebello and Long Beach over the wage hikes.

A federal judge ruled in favor of Long Beach last week, upholding the hero pay ordinance.

“The cities that have done this and have been sued have successfully fought them off so far,” Costa Mesa City Atty. Kim Barlow said this week. “[But], again, none of those cases have come to final adjudication at this point.”

A cashier helps a customer at the checkout stand in the Von's grocery store.
(Luis Sinco)

NEWS

— The FBI and local authorities are investigating an Orange County street gang.

— Orange County is moving closer toward reaching the less restrictive red tier of the state’s reopening guidelines.

— Asian American community leaders discussed an increase in rhetoric and violence against Asian communities since the pandemic began.

— Orange County nonprofits are joining together to deliver food to seniors’ homes.

— An attorney is accusing an Orange County sheriff’s deputy of beating her client and then fabricating the details of the violent episode.

— Orange County could reopen its economy in weeks if this happens.

— Trial was delayed for a man accused of murder of 81-year-old Newport Beach man.

SPORTS

— Angels player Shohei Ohtani hit a 468-foot home run during a Cactus League game this week.

— Here’s what to expect if you go see Angels spring training games.

FOOD

— Though you may not be able to travel during the pandemic, you can still taste international cuisine at these 10 Orange County restaurants.

OPINION

— Getting rid of the SAT and the ACT is progress for the educational system.

ARTS

— Pacific Symphony has new online performances that can be viewed by the public for free.

— An art installation symbolizing the nearly 4,000 Orange County residents who have died from COVID-19 will be at the Orange County Museum of Art through Sunday.

— City of Hope unveiled its campaign to decorate the county with images of hope.