Some California Towns Order ‘Hero Pay’ for Grocery Workers

The California Grocers Association files a legal challenge.

January 28, 2021

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Some California municipalities aren’t waiting for a congressional decision on proposed “hero pay” for essential workers. Instead, they’re mandating immediate recognition pay for local retail and grocery employees.

As NACS Daily reported Tuesday, President Biden wants food retailers to provide employees with back hero pay as part of a proposed $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan. ​The announcement follows efforts by labor officials to convince retailers to revive the bonus pay programs they introduced for essential workers early in the pandemic.

Some California towns already are taking steps to give essential workers more money. According to, the Long Beach city council has unanimously approved a $4 hourly bonus for employees at large grocery stores, although the pay increase will not be official until a final vote on Feb. 2. The wage increase will apply to companies with 300-plus employees nationwide and with more than 15 employees per store in Long Beach. The hero pay mandate will be in place for at least 120 days.

In response, the California Grocers Association filed a legal challenge to the ordinance in Los Angeles federal court. It asks the court to declare the pending pay decree invalid and seeks a preliminary injunction to stop implementation until a judge can rule on the merits of its lawsuit.

In addition, the CGA claims the ordinance is illegal because it singles out certain grocers and ignores other groups that employ essential frontline workers, violating the constitutional requirement that similarly situated people must be treated alike.

San Francisco supervisors also OK’d a similar resolution to give grocery workers $5-an-hour hazard pay. The extra compensation would not be required of small mom-and-pop groceries, according to, and would remain in effect until local coronavirus cases decline based on state benchmarks.

Employees of national grocery and drug stores in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County will receive an additional $5 per hour in “hero pay,” according to The county Board of Supervisors approved the pay bump for employees of companies that are publicly traded or have at least 300 employees nationwide and more than 10 employees per store.

And on Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council’s Economic Development and Jobs Committee unanimously directed the city attorney’s office to draft an emergency ordinance that would require grocery stores with more than 300 employees nationwide to provide “hero pay” to workers. As the Daily News reports, the ordinance, if passed, would provide L.A. grocery store workers with an additional $5 an hour for a minimum of 120 days.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.