March 10th, 2021

President’s Message

Governments will not be bullied as they seek hero pay for workers

by President Mark Ramos

Why are so many of the big grocery companies hostile to the idea of hero pay?

Kroger’s decision to close a Ralphs store and a Food 4 Less store in Long Beach was a heavy-handed attempt to punish that city for enacting an ordinance requiring grocery chains to pay their employees an extra $4 an hour over the next 120 days.

Kroger’s gesture of intimidating workers will displace 200 employees, but it won’t succeed in stopping more cities from taking action on behalf of this vulnerable class of frontline workers.

On Feb. 2, the Los Angeles City Council voted to join a growing list of local governments demanding fair treatment for grocery workers — who, at great personal risk to themselves and their families, show up to work every day so their employers can stay open and make huge profits  during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other cities that have enacted or are considering enacting hero pay ordinances include Pomona,  Santa Monica, Seattle, San Jose, Berkeley, Santa Ana, West Hollywood,  Oakland, Santa Clara and San Mateo.

Still more are surely on the way, including cities within UFCW Local 1428’s jurisdiction, and as I write this, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is considering a similar move.

In Washington, D.C., President Joe Biden is reported to be specifically addressing hero pay for grocery workers in his proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

These workers are indeed heroes, and they deserve to be rewarded for their hard work and commitment to their community. Without them, families in our communities wouldn’t be able to put food on the table or medications in the medicine cabinet.

We should be proud that the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union has been leading the charge for hero pay on all fronts.

Locally, our union has been pressing Ralphs, Food 4 Less, Vons, Albertsons and other retailers to restore the hero pay our members had in the early weeks of the pandemic.

So far, only Stater Bros. has stepped up to do the right thing, despite recent reports that major supermarket companies have doubled their profits during the pandemic.

These companies are now on the verge of reaping even more profits as they gear up as centers for administering the COVID-19 vaccines.

Our governments will not be bullied by Kroger or their counterparts as they seek justice for frontline workers. And neither will the UFCW, as the proud advocate of our members’ dignity and welfare, be intimidated from seeking justice.