During its meeting Tuesday, the Long Beach City Council voted unanimously to roll out “Hero Pay” to offer supplemental income for grocery workers at risk of exposure to COVID-19, declaring it an urgent matter.
The emergency ordinance will now require grocery chains to pay their hourly workers an extra $4 per hour in addition to their regular wages. Mayor Robert Garcia deemed this group of individuals “the backbone” of the community and announced via Twitter Tuesday evening that he would instate “Hero Pay” on Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Tomorrow, on the day we inaugurate our new President, I’ll sign into law a $4 an hour hero pay increase to our hardworking grocery and supermarket workers. They have been on the frontlines of this pandemic and deserve this support.
— Robert Garcia (@RobertGarcia) January 20, 2021
“They are doing essential work and are entitled to basic benefits so that they can provide for their families and have the financial security they need and deserve for working as hard in a high-risk environment as our frontline workers during this pandemic,” said councilmember Mary Zendejas, who sponsored the measure.
Several grocery employees participated in public comment to say they felt they deserved hazard pay, including Long Beach resident Marcus Williams, who has worked for Albertsons for 12 years and tested positive for COVID-19 in November.
“There’s no mistake that I caught it from work, I’m coming in contact with more people than the medical facilities right now,” Williams said. “And we don’t know if these people are taking precautions, you know, washing their hands, things of that nature.”
The council also voted to move forward with an effort to implement inclusionary housing in the city. The motion would require housing developers to set aside 11% of new units for lower-income residents.
Zendejas voiced her support for this measure and said it should be amended with clarifications “to continue the conversation and help create more affordable housing moving forward.”
Housing developers have the option to pay a fee in lieu of constructing the units, which would go toward funding affordable housing elsewhere in the city, according to an article in the Long Beach Post.
In an effort to guarantee these fees go toward the construction of lower-income units, Zendejas requested research and analysis to be conducted on this matter and for a report to be revisited in 120 days.
Allen, who seconded the motion, said that these amendments would establish requirements to ensure the city’s affordable housing is protected and prioritized.
“This is not a Band-Aid or a temporary solution but a major step forward in making our city a more equitable and inclusive place to live,” Allen said.
Vice Mayor Rex Richardson also expressed his “full support” of the measure.
In addition, Councilmember Roberto Uranga, along with Zendejas, Price, Allen and Richardson, formally condemned President Donald J. Trump’s actions in office on the last day of his presidency, particularly his incitement of violence in the Capitol Hill riot on Jan. 6.
Richardson expressed that it was “very disturbing to see the Confederate flag flying inside the United States Capitol” and that it is important to “acknowledge the existence of a violent white supremacist movement that was put on display for the entire world that day.”
“We need to make sure that we’re all on the right side of this thing and we are clear as a city council that, politics aside, we took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of California,” Richardson said. “Wednesday’s inauguration can’t come soon enough, and we look forward to marching together as one community, as one country, starting tomorrow.”
The Long Beach City Council will hold its next meeting on Feb. 2 at 5 p.m. via teleconference.