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Palm Springs discussing ‘hero pay’ ordinance for grocery, pharmacy workers

Palm Springs city council Thursday night discussed implementing a "hero pay" ordinance for some frontline workers at grocery stores and pharmacies.

It's a $4 per hour pay raise for at least four months.

The city of Coachella passed a hero pay ordinance last week, extending it to include farmworkers too.

"People have been on the frontlines of this pandemic; they have put themselves at risk. There's been worker deaths and infections." said Mayor Christy Holstege. "That's what we heard from workers: the need for hero pay to compensate people for the hazard that they face going to work every day for the past year."

Stephanie Hart has worked at Ralphs in Palm Springs for 14 years. She says this past year was one of the most difficult in her career.

"We as workers are worried about catching Covid and personally I'm really worried about catching it, bringing it home to my husband who is disabled," Hart said. "(Hero pay) would just take a little worry off my back."

The proposed ordinance would only affect companies with more than 300 workers nationally, and at least 15 workers in Palm Springs.

But there's been some backlash in California cities adopting similar policies. Kroger closed two stores in Long Beach, the company said a direct result of the hero pay mandated there.

Joe Duffle, president of workers' union UFCW 1167, said the closures were "a grandstand," and a greedy one – as grocery stores rake in record profits.

"Kroger made billions with a 'B' dollars in this pandemic and what they chose to do was give their CEO a bonus; what they chose to do was buy back their own stock," Duffle said.

In a special Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday with stakeholders, representatives for local grocery stores warned of potential store closures, reductions in hours, and price increases.

"Of course there is that fear," Hart said. "We all hope that the company does the right thing and values the work that we've been doing to serve our community."

There was no vote on a Palm Springs ordinance Thursday, as it was only up for city council's discussion. City leaders are looking at extending it to include other essential workers, and are carefully exploring all possible ramifications if it were to pass.

Coronavirus / News / News Headlines

Jake Ingrassia

Joining News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 as a reporter, Jake is excited to be launching his broadcasting career here in the desert. Learn more about Jake here.

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