Around 20 local activists gathered Sunday at a Ralph’s location at the Marina Pacifica Mall on Pacific Coast Highway to protest Kroger Co. and its plan to close two grocery stores in Long Beach after the city instituted “Hero Pay.”
Chanting “Up, up, up with the worker; down, down, down with Kroger,” demonstrators called on shoppers to boycott the company, handing out informational pamphlets on reasons behind their movement.
After Kroger announced last month that it plans to close both a Food 4 Less and Ralphs in the city as a result of the enforcement of hazard pay, local activists have been vocal in their opposition of the corporation. During Sunday’s event, participants held up signs demanding the stores remain open as organizer Anthony Bryson emphasized the importance of protesting “corporate greed.”
“This is a community of individuals from LA County responding to the gross negligence that Kroger participates in,” Bryson said. “We see Food 4 Less, we see Ralphs locations that do not have signs saying to wear a mask.”
Bryson argued that if Kroger does follow through with the store closures, the affected workers should be relocated to the other high-volume locations that are seeing increased profits due to COVID-19.
“But we stand by that these locations should not be closed because those affected the most are Black and Brown individuals,” Bryson said.
Emphasizing how workers benefit from hazard pay, Steven Estrada, a Long Beach State alumnus, Army veteran and member of the Communist Party USA, said he felt workers are deserving of sufficient pay, especially during a time of economic struggle.
“In District 1 where I’m from, one out of every four people live in poverty, one in four are rent-burdened,” said Estrada, who is a candidate for the Long Beach City Council, District 1 seat. “In one of the wealthiest counties in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, I don’t believe that the workers who create the value of all things in society should go hungry, without housing, without services.”
During the event, Bryson announced that he will be running for the 47th congressional district currently held by Rep. Alan Lowenthal.
“We are fighting for livable wages, not minimum wages,” Bryson said. “We are fighting for unity, not division, we are asking that no one be laid off and forced to partake in unemployment.”