LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Kroger announced Wednesday it would close three more of its stores in Los Angeles, after the city passed a “hero pay” ordinance mandating a $5 pay bump for grocery and pharmacy workers.
Two Ralphs stores — at 9616 West Pico Blvd. and 3300 West Slauson Ave. – and a Food 4 Less at 5420 W. Sunset Blvd. will be shut down on May 15, according to Kroger. The company says the three stores were already underperforming, and the Los Angeles mandate accelerated their closure.
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(Photo by Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images)
“It’s never our desire to close a store, but when you factor in the increased costs of operating during COVID-19, consistent financial losses at these three locations, and an extra pay mandate that will cost nearly $20 million over the next 120 days, it becomes impossible to operate these three stores,” Kroger said in a statement.
It’s not clear how many workers will be laid off when the three stores close in May. But Kroger said it would provide the mandated extra pay to all associates, including those who work in the three locations scheduled to close.
Kroger says its Ralphs and Food 4 Less associates in Los Angeles already earn $18 an hour. With health care and pension benefits, their total compensation comes to $24 an hour, according to Kroger. The grocery store giant says it has also invested $2.5 billion to reward its associates and implement safety measures since the start of the pandemic, and recently issued $50 million in rewards to frontline associates.
The company also pointed to its efforts to vaccinate its frontline workers as quickly as possible, touting three vaccine clinics taking place this week for its associates in Los Angeles. Kroger, which is offering a $100 vaccination reward to its employees, says nearly 20% of its associates have received their first dose or are fully vaccinated.
“Prioritizing vaccinations — not arbitrary mandates for extra pay — is what will keep frontline workers protected,” a Kroger spokesperson said in the statement.
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Kroger has been fighting back against the hazard pay mandates that have been passed by several municipalities in recent months. In Long Beach, the company already announced the closure of two stores in response to that city’s “hero pay” ordinance.