Kroger to Close 2 Stores Amid New Wage Rule

The grocery chain says Long Beach, California, officials are picking winners and losers in the marketplace.

February 04, 2021

CINCINNATI, Ohio—Kroger Co. has announced plans to shutter two underperforming Southern California grocery stores following passage of a local ordinance that requires grocers to raise their frontline workers’ hourly pay, reports Bloomberg. A Ralphs store and a Food 4 Less store in Long Beach, Calif., will close on April 17, the company said this week. No additional information was released.

Last month, Long Beach, Calif., passed a mandate requiring large grocery chains to increase workers’ pay by $4 an hour at chains with more than 300 employees nationally and at least 15 workers locally.

Kroger said both stores had been struggling and criticized Long Beach for not raising the pay of its own frontline workers. The company added that the Long Beach ruling interferes with the traditional bargaining process.

“The irreparable harm that will come to employees and local citizens as a direct result of the city of Long Beach’s attempt to pick winners and losers is deeply unfortunate,” Kroger said. In response, a local union representing 22,000 members said in a statement that Kroger’s move was “a blatant attack and retaliation” on essential grocery workers.

Amid a recent wave of pay-raise mandates by cities and counties, the National Grocers Association, a trade group that represents over 1,500 retail and wholesale grocers, said in an email that the organization continues to advocate “for rewards” at the federal level for frontline workers.

Long Beach is not the only California city to mandate raises for grocery and other retail workers. Last month, the Santa Monica City Council voted to approve a temporary pay boost—a $5 increase—for grocery and drug store employees in the city. On Tuesday, Los Angeles became the largest city in the nation to require grocery stores to temporarily pay workers an extra $5 an hour.