Thousands of workers in San Jose grocery stores should soon see their paychecks spike by $ 3 an hour, despite the wait a little longer than many had hoped.
San Jose City Council voted Tuesday night between 7 a.m. and 3 a.m. to pass new laws requiring grocery stores, supermarket chains, and retail stores that sell groceries and employ at least 300 people nationwide to pay an additional $ 3 an hour on top of their regular wages have to. Small businesses and franchise businesses with fewer than 300 employees are exempt from the regulation.
The regulation did not clarify the need to support at least eight members of the Council for it to come into force immediately. Instead, majority voting means that the new law will come into effect in about two months.
Councilor Sergio Jimenez, who drafted the ordinance, admitted he wished the legislation had more support and was delighted that the city could give this relief to its frontline grocers.
“I firmly believe this is right for me,” said Jimenez. “And I hope that in 120 days the sky has not fallen, the shops have not closed, the economy is flourishing and these companies continue to do well.”
San Jose will soon join the cities of Oakland, Long Beach, Santa Monica and Seattle, all of which have passed similar ordinances in the past few weeks demanding higher wages for grocery store workers. Santa Clara County will vote later this month on whether to raise the paychecks of workers at grocery stores and fast food restaurants anywhere in the county except San Jose by $ 5 an hour.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and councilors Dev Davis and Matt Mahan voted against the hazard payment legislation on Tuesday evening. They pointed to an inadequate analysis of the potential financial impact, concerns about possible store closures and increased food prices, and disagreements about which companies should be affected by the legislation. Councilor Pam Foley pulled out of the vote because she holds shares in Amazon, the owner of Whole Foods, that would be affected by the regulation.
Since the law was first proposed about two weeks ago, several changes have been made to it, including lowering the required additional pay from $ 5 an hour to $ 3 an hour and providing an expiration date for the ordinance 120 days after it came into effect as the termination of Santa Clara County’s COVID-19 Emergency Statement. Jimenez said he made those concessions after speaking to grocery store executives and hearing their concerns.
Despite the changes, Jim Araby, a spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, praised the city for approving the legislation, showing that “San Jose values the contributions of food workers.”
“The San Jose City Council has passed a much-needed ordinance on paying dangers to thousands of local food workers in San Jose,” Araby said in a statement. “Some of the pandemic profits will be put in the pockets of food workers at risk of exposure to ensure our communities have access to food.”
Ahead of the Tuesday night meeting, Councilor Mahan unveiled another proposal he saw as a compromise, believing the eight-vote requirement could be resolved so a hazard payment ordinance can go into effect immediately in San Jose.
His proposal contained three obvious differences from Jimenez’s plan: the legislation would only apply to publicly traded companies, it could be paid out as a bonus or base salary increase, and would be reported 120 days or “by the date Santa Clara counties,” that there are enough vaccine doses and dates to schedule vaccinations for any willing grocery retailer. “
While concerns were raised about each proposed adjustment, the main sticking point among city guides was the discrepancy over which companies would be subject to the new legislation.
Mahan said his goal of applying the legislation only to publicly traded companies was “to reduce the risk that employees of smaller chains – such as Chavez, Cardenas, Lion, Mi Pueblo, Mitsuwa, Nijiya and 99 Ranch – won’t lose jobs or hours.” as a result of city policies “and protect grocery stores from closing in” difficult neighborhoods that tend not to attract national brands, public chains “.
“Our political decisions have real consequences and we should be honest that these policies have benefits but can also generate costs,” Mahan said during the meeting. “My intention here is to maximize benefits while minimizing overall costs.”
Liccardo agreed with Mahan, saying that if the city applies the legislation to smaller chains like Cardenas, the city “could put people in a position to fire people or close a business”.
“These are obviously results that we don’t want in a world where unemployment is in double digits in many of our neighborhoods,” he said.
However, the majority of the city council disagreed that the smaller grocery chains listed by Mahan could not handle the additional cost for 120 days. Jimenez described the threats of store closures and increased food prices as a “horror strategy”.
Many grocery stores raised workers’ wages early in the pandemic but stopped later when some of the public health contracts were lifted. Lucky’s was one of the few grocery stores in the Bay Area to provide additional hazard payments to employees as the pandemic progressed.
John Gomez, a grocery store clerk, urged the council not to look at worst-case scenarios but to think about “what you will do to protect community workers from these companies if they decide that they will do it. “
“There are plenty of wins,” said Gomez. “Lucky’s is the perfect example of why you can do this without hitting prices, cutting hours, or closing grocery stores.”
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