Fresno councilmember proposes grocery worker hazard pay; critics say consumers will pay the price

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FRESNO, California (KSEE) – Fresno City Council will decide whether or not grocery stores will have to pay employee’s hazard pay for working during the pandemic.

Fresno City Council President Luis Chavez is bringing the bill forward to protect essential workers he said that put their lives at risk every day.

“I think it is important for these companies to recognize the work and the sacrifice of these essential workers and what they have endured during the pandemic,” said Chavez. “Oh and by the way, they are still going through that.”

If approved, the proposal would require some grocery stores to pay employees an extra $3 an hour for the next 120 days. The bill would apply to all retail with more than 300 employees, that are at least 15,000 sq ft in size, and where food accounts for more than 10% in sales.

“This is not intended for small businesses, this is for big box stores,” said Chavez.

“I am pleased to see the city council is committed to recognizing the essential work and the risk of food workers are engaged in,” said United Food and Commercial Worker Union Golder State President Jacques Loveall.

The proposal follows several similar items across the state including in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Long Beach approved hazard pay for $4 an hour, which the Kroger chain said caused lead to the closure of two stores.

Councilmember Garry Bredefeld and Fresno Chamber President Scott Miller said nothing is free and shoppers will just take their business somewhere else.

“Groceries will get raised because the money has to come from somewhere,” said Bredefeld. “It is not laying on a money tree. I know politicians at City Hall think money grows on trees, it does not.”

“It will make groceries cheaper in Clovis, Madera, and Sanger and it will presumably make the stores more profitable during that time as well,” said Miller.

Businesses that don’t comply would be fined $1,000 for the first offense and up to $10,000 for “egregious violations.”

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