A California city raised essential worker pay — and their expectations

The pandemic forced America to recognize essential workers – and pay them accordingly. That could change our economy for years to come.

7/31/2021 7:01:00 PM

The pandemic forced America to recognize essential workers – and pay them accordingly. That could change our economy for years to come.

Hazard pay changed the lives of California grocery store employees during the pandemic and may have begun a long-term shift for lower-wage workers.

Next SlideHazard pay and other pandemic-related pay increases have proven to be a boon for many essential workers, helping them pay for medical bills or save for a rainy day. Industry groups, however, say those policies could force some smaller employers out of business or cause them to think twice about operating in a higher-wage city.

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In no state have these policies been more popular than California. Following the lead of Long Beach, 37 cities and counties have passed temporary ordinances this year that require certain grocery and retail businesses to pay employees $4 to $5 more per hour. Only a handful of cities outside of the state, including Seattle, have similarly required employers to cover worker pay increases themselves.

California’s $14 hourly minimum wage is already the second-highest in the country behind Washington, D.C., but a $4 to $5 per hour pay bump represents a significant increase for many of the state's low-wage workers, increasing their paychecks by up to 35 percent. headtopics.com

In California and across the country, wages for lower- and middle-class workers have been stagnant for decades, even as the economic productivity of companies has grown. The inflation-adjusted hourly earnings for low-wage workersincreased by just 4 percent in California

from 1979 to 2018, according to the left-leaning California Budget and Policy Center.Full coverage »Unions and anti-poverty activists have argued for years that many American workers are paid too little to live on and have pushed for higher minimum wages, among other policies. Business groups have argued that paying higher wages would force them to cut the number of workers they could employ.

In some ways, the pandemic provided a chance to see which side might be right; while the results are somewhat mixed, it’s clear that the lives of workers like Campanello did improve markedly even from the short-term increases.Months into the pandemic,

as businesses continued shutting down and unemployment was soaring, Jackie Lopez looked for a job in the grocery industry, where she hoped to find more job security after the liquor store where she’d worked cut her hours.A mother of three young children who lives in Huntington Park, a small city southeast of Los Angeles, Lopez was hired as a part-time clerk at El Super, a regional chain of supermarkets headtopics.com

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.Lopez said she knew her new job would come with risks, but being out of work wasn’t an option.“I was nervous before I started working,” she said. “I knew it was a possibility that I was going to run into people that were sick or who didn't want to comply with the rules with masks and six feet distance.”

In late December, as Covid cases were raging through Los Angeles, Lopez noticed during a lunch break that she had begun to lose her sense of smell and taste. Terrified, she rushed to get herself and her family tested. She was infected, along with her husband and her parents, whom they’d recently visited.

Lopez said that only her mother suffered serious symptoms, ending up in the hospital before recovering. But for two weeks, she and her husband — who also works at a grocery store — couldn’t work, and they fell behind on their bills. Neither she nor her husband initially

qualified for sick-leave pay, though they did receive it retroactively under a federal law passed in March.It was around this time that Lopez heard about the hazard pay proposal that Los Angeles County, where her store is located, would soon adopt. For 120 days starting in March, the county required grocery stores and some retailers to give their workers $5 more per hour. headtopics.com

Lopez still remembers the first time it materialized on a paycheck. Her husband, who works in the city of Compton, did not receive hazard pay. But the extra money just in her paycheck allowed the family to catch up on their bills, including late credit card payments, she said. It also let them treat their kids to meals out, a trip to Universal Studios and a few hours on a whale-watching boat.

“It felt more comfortable knowing that we have that little bit of savings, and we could take the kids out to places,” she said. “It felt really good.”Covid-19 changed the U.S. workforce virtually overnight, and more than a year later, it’s clear that there’s no going back to the status quo.

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And contributing to the Biden 30 year high inflation rate. No crap. Shutting down an economy, killing small business by claiming they aren’t “essential,” and creating an inflated state so the middle class can’t afford things… You are right Politico!!! It will absolutely change our economy for years to come.

What have our medical workers gotten? Did they get a lot more pay and bonus money? I ask as an retired critical care RN? Teachers took off afraid and kids suffered lack of contact ? What if these medical just said I quit? A few died? Bezos gave $100 million Van Jones WHY? Labor going forward will once again be exploited. Thanks to the GQP and the stacked courts. Also what was a Big Lie in the pandemic was that the workers described were not 'essential', they were 'expendable'.

Yes it will change our economy, for the better. living wage for the essential, working class, working poor and a concerted effort not to let Wall Street, corporates,GOP manipulate factors like inflation and misinformation you'll notice a reduction Federal social safety net cost The minimum wage is still 725 an hour… You still need two jobs to live in any major city

I don’t know about that. I’m essential and got a pizza. It did no such thing. The govt made that up. And people were paid to sit home. They know their worth and now so do you. Pay support staff what they are deserving of!! Will have too because they have had it! Be prepared to interact with more machines.

They don't need to be 'recognized' ffs. They need to own the store

Essential California Week in Review: Masks, sports trades and anti-camping rulesMask mandates are back in much of California and across the U.S., the Dodgers and Lakers picked up massive superstar players and the L.A. City Council made a major decision about just where people experiencing homelessness can stay ... sort of. Contrary to the notion of “no shoes, no shirt, no service,” that policy violated established law when you discriminate against someone for their appearance, their medical condition or their religion. That is because every single person has the right to shop at your business, with or without a mask. According to law, your private business is a public accommodation, because you are engaged in selling to the public.

California restaurant turns to robot for help as it struggles to hire'We are struggling to find people to come in and work. ... Nobody wants to come in and apply,' said Ana Ortiz, the restaurant's general manager. shouldn't the food be covered and the customer uncover; what if someone sneezes! Yeah, where the fuck is UBI?!!! jobs restaurants 'struggles to hire workers at a livingwage'. NRNonline

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