LONG BEACH (CBSLA) – Kroger, the parent company of Ralphs and Food 4 Less, announced Monday that it will be closing two of its Long Beach stores following the passage of a law that hiked grocery store workers’ pay by $4 per hour.

Kroger reported that on April 17 it will be shutting down its Ralphs store at 3380 N. Los Coyotes Diagonal and its Food 4 Less store at 2185 E. South St.

“As a result of the City of Long Beach’s decision to pass an ordinance mandating extra pay for grocery workers, we have made the difficult decision to permanently close long-struggling store locations in Long Beach,” the company said in a news release. “This misguided action by the Long Beach City Council oversteps the traditional bargaining process and applies to some, but not all, grocery workers in the city.”

The California Grocers Association president said the following in a statement:

“The Long Beach City Council rushed to enact the misguided extra pay mandate without any meaningful dialogue with grocers in their community. We repeatedly warned that a $4/hour increase would have major unintended consequences – including potential store closures, the reduction of work for employees, and higher grocery costs for customers.”

In opposition, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia tweeted in support of paying grocery store workers more, saying, “The Kroger corporation is closing two markets in Long Beach because our city is requiring temporary hero’s pay for grocery workers during this pandemic. Grocers are making record profits. We go to court this month and we will defend the workers vigorously.”

Last month, the Long Beach City Council passed an ordinance that requires grocers with at least 300 employees nationwide to provide their employees with an extra $4 per hour in hazard pay for at least the next 120 days due to the risks of working during the coronavirus pandemic.

Los Angeles City councilors are currently considering a similar motion which would provide their grocery store workers with an extra $5 per hour in hazard pay.

Last March and April, as the pandemic was unfolding, several major grocery stores and retailers – including the likes of Kroger, Walmart, Target and Albertsons – provided their employees with one-time bonuses or temporary wage increases of $2 per hour.

Kroger claimed Monday that it has spent $1.3 billion since the start of the pandemic to “both reward associates and to implement dozens of safety measures.”

The California Grocers Association has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Federal Court to declare the hazard pay invalid and unconstitutional.

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