OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) – Oakland city leaders approved an emergency ordinance on Tuesday that will increase grocery store worker pay by $5 during the pandemic.
Workers in Oakland will get an additional $5, if approved in San Jose workers there would get an extra $3.
Late Tuesday, San Jose City Council delayed the decision to increase pay for another week.
Oakland city leaders say large grocery store chains have seen record profits during the pandemic, money being made at the hands of the same workers, whose communities are among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan would only include large grocery store chains with more than 15,000 square feet and 500-or more employees.
The temporary increase would only last until the city of Oakland enters the moderate or yellow tier in the state’s reopening map.
“It’s unfortunate that public entities have to go ahead and take up this issue,” John Nunes said.
John Nunes is with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, the union representing the workers.
Nunes says early on, grocery store chains voluntarily offered the additional money but stopped back in the summer.
“It’s not like the pandemic went away. In fact the pandemic is back and it’s roaring,” Nunes said.
Medical experts say grocery store workers are 5-times more likely to contract the virus.
With communities of color more susceptible to the virus, and many minorities working in grocery stores, Nunes says thousands of workers are risking their own lives, and even dying, while stores continue to operate, generating millions in profits for the chains.
“They can’t afford to stay away from work. They have to go in to earn a living and provide for their families, and as a result, they should be compensated,” Nunes said.
Grocery store chains fear the moves will have a negative impact on business.
Kroger closed two stores in Long Beach after city leaders there announced a $4 per hour hike for grocery store workers.
In a statement to KRON4, the California Grocers Association said Oakland’s extra $5 an hour, amounts to a 28-percent increase in labor costs.
Saying grocers will not be able to absorb those costs and negative repercussions are unavoidable.
Nunes says the companies are making hand over fist during the pandemic.
“These companies are making a significant amount of money. Their sales year over year has gone through the ceiling. Their profits are up,” Nunes said.
Several other cities in the Bay Area are considering similar pay increases for grocery store workers.
San Jose city leaders are looking to boost pay by $3 an hour.
San Mateo County leaders will take up the issue next.
Tuesday, Trader Joe’s announced it was giving workers a $2 an hour, on top of an earlier increase, bringing the total to $4.
A number of other cities across the Bay Area, are considering similar ordinances.