Crenshaw District, Los Angeles–Community members in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles were stunned when they heard news that Ralphs on Slauson and Crenshaw would be closing their doors in May. The news abuptly followed an emergency ordinance approved by the L.A City Council in March, which requires large pharmacy and grocery chains to provide their employees ‘heroes pay.’ This additional $5 per hour for workers who were also deemed essential and have been working during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The ‘heroes pay’ ordinance will remain in place for the next 120 days.
“Cashiers, stockers, baggers and so many more have risked their lives every day since March making minimum wage to make sure we have everything we need to stay safely at home to get through this crisis,” she said. “While these companies have seen massive profits, it has not trickled down to their employees. These companies can afford to pay the hazard pay, they just don’t want to,” Council President Nury Martinez said.
Instead of honoring their employees who continue to be the backbone of their business even during a global pandemic, Kroger who owns Ralphs and Food 4 Less, is choosing instead to close three of their most underperforming locations in Los Angeles.
These locations include the Ralphs at Slauson and Crenshaw as well as 9616 West Pico Boulevard near Century City, as well as a Food 4 Less at 5420 West Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.
“The company described the three stores as “long-struggling” and “underperforming” in its announcement to close them on May 15, and said the decision was “accelerated” by the new mandate that requires extra pay for grocery workers. Kroger also announced earlier in February it would close two supermarkets in Long Beach after the city council there approved a $4-hike in “hazard pay,” (Commercial Observer).
Kroger estimates the heroes pay will add an estimated $20 million in operating cost over the next 4 months.
Tina, who is a current employee of the Ralphs on Slauson says she is most concerned for her co-workers who are not yet union members like she is.
“We want this protest to make Kroger keep Ralphs open, even though we are under acknowledgement that they have sold the building already but we would love to keep our store here. I’m advocating for my co-workers because with them moving us, there is fear of lay-offs and no one wants to be out here without a job, especially with everything we have going on right now. Some people have been with this company 20, 30 years. So, there is a scare of them not having a job, and not being able to provide for their family when they are already having a tough time, “Tina expressed.
She says that she grew up in the community and recently moved back home, so this Ralphs on Slauson and Crenshaw holds a lot of sentimental value for her.
“I was walking through here the other day and almost teared up thinking of the memories of when my grandmother would bring us to this grocery store. Of course we would get in trouble because we were little kids running around, but you have those memories, this neighborhood has so many memories and this grocery store provides so much that it should not be taken away from this community.”
She went on to say that if the store is under-performing, that is a management issue and they can implement new strategies to ensure loss prevention. Tina says maybe they could reinvest in revamping the store, to bring in more people and meet the changing geographical needs of the Crenshaw community.
Cheryl Turner grew up in the local community and says she is disappointed to see a grocery store leave over such a small amount of money. Turner is running in a special election to the California State Assembly for a seat in the District 54. She is on the ballot in the special primary election on May 18, 2021.
“This should be paid to support our workers in the pandemic. Let’s resolve all this, resolve the back pay, keep this store in our community and maintain a good relationship with the people who work here. It should really be an irrelevant issue,” Turner said.