Cities across California recently approved “hero pay” ordinances that have prompted at least two grocery store closures in Southern California. But Santa Monica city leaders said this week they are still determined to bring a similar ordinance to the Westside.

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors first discussed an ordinance requiring a $5 increase in per hour pay for essential workers in early January. A week later, Santa Monica City Council followed suit and unanimously agreed to pass a temporary ordinance once the County came back with a finalized draft of their own proposal.

Since last month’s local discussion, cities like Long Beach, Oakland and Los Angeles have all passed Hero Pay ordinances of their own as well. However, on Monday, Kroger Co. said it will close two supermarkets in Long Beach as a direct response to the city’s mandate, which requires all supermarkets with at least 300 employees nationwide and more than 15 in Long Beach to increase the pay of their employees by $4 an hour for 120-days.

“This misguided action by the Long Beach City Council oversteps the traditional bargaining process and applies to some, but not all, grocery workers in the city,” Kroger Co. said in a statement. “As a result… we have made the difficult decision to permanently close long-struggling store locations in Long Beach.”

Santa Monica Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who originally proposed the Hero Pay ordinance locally, focused on the “long-struggling” portion of Kroger Co.’s statement when he discussed how corporations could be using Hero Pay as an excuse to shutter stores they were already planning on closing in the future.

“I cannot claim any special knowledge or insight regarding retail food circumstances in Long Beach, where Kroger may already have been planning to close their stores and has seized upon ‘hero pay’ as a convenient excuse,” McKeown said. “But I do know that grocery workers in this pandemic are true heroes who deserve community support for keeping our families fed, and Kroger trying to foster pay envy from other essential workers not covered by the Long Beach ordinance is a doubly disrespectful response.”

McKeown added Santa Monica Hero Pay efforts are currently on hold while he and his peers wait for county supervisors to finalize their own ordinance; but, like Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, McKeown cited a Brookings Institution report that details how Kroger ended its $2 per hour “Hero Pay” in mid-May, despite doubling its profits and spending nearly a billion dollars in 2020 to buy back its own stock shares.

“So, ‘hero pay’ for endangered workers does not have to come out of customers’ grocery bills. That’s what corporate owners always say but that’s not the case here,” McKeown said. “Corporate greed has no shame, and my response, if they actually close the stores rather than extend ‘hero pay,’ abandoning neighborhoods and discarding their loyal workers, is that I’ll stop shopping at any store owned by Kroger, whose media-release crocodile tears don’t wash away the dishonor they should feel.”

Brennon@smdp.com