CGA Press Release: California Grocers Association / City of Long Beach Extra Pay Mandate Lawsuit Update: Preliminary Injunction Hearing in Grocers Suit Against Long Beach Still Set for February 19

Contact: Nate Rose, Senior Director of Communications, CA Grocers Association [email protected]

Original Judge Hon. Dolly Gee recused herself but new judge, Hon. Otis Wright, has not reset hearing date

Sacramento – The California Grocers Association (CGA) wanted media to be aware that despite a new judge being assigned to the case, the preliminary injunction hearing scheduled in the CGA lawsuit against the City of Long Beach, as of now, remains set for February 19. Many other localities are watching this date and delaying discussions about extra pay mandates until after this hearing.

Hon. Dolly Gee recused herself. The newly assigned judge, Hon. Otis Wright, has not issued any order modifying the original schedule.

The CGA lawsuit, filed January 20 in Los Angeles federal court, challenges the $4/hour emergency extra pay ordinance passed by the Long Beach City Council on January 19. CGA is asking the court to declare the ordinance invalid and unconstitutional.

The original judge, Judge Dolly Gee, recused herself from the case on February 10 following UFCW Local 324’s motion to intervene in the case. According to the Order to Reassign Case Due to Self-Recusal:

“The undersigned Judge, to whom the above-entitled case was assigned, is hereby of the opinion that he or she should not preside over said case, by reason of (please use additional sheets if necessary):

the fact that Judge Gee is personally familiar with the President of UFCW, Local 324 and previously has been co-counsel with Local 324’s law firm, and therefore recuses herself pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455(a).”

UFCW, the labor union representing grocery workers, is backing the local ordinances throughout the state. UFCW Local 324 has signed collective bargaining agreements with grocers in Long Beach.

The CGA lawsuit alleges the City of Long Beach ordinance is illegal in two main ways: 1) By singling out certain grocers and ignoring other groups that employ essential frontline workers, the Ordinance violates the U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution’s Equal Protection Clauses, which require similarly situated people to be treated alike; and 2) the Ordinance is preempted by the federal National Labor Relations Act, which protects the integrity of the collective-bargaining process.

“Grocery store workers are frontline heroes, and that’s why grocers have already undertaken a massive effort to institute measures to make both workers and customers safer in stores. But this ordinance is clearly illegal in that it interferes with the collective-bargaining process and singles out only certain grocers while ignoring other retail workers and workers in other industries providing essential services during the pandemic,” said Ron Fong, President and CEO of the California Grocers Association. “Firefighters, police officers, health care workers, as well as transportation, sanitation, and restaurant workers are essential, yet grocers are the only businesses being targeted for extra pay mandates. We look forward to our day in court to contest the legality of this Ordinance.”

A recent study found that an extra pay mandates of $5.00/hour could raise consumer grocery prices by about $400 annually for the typical family of four. Alternatively, if grocers were forced to find offsetting savings in operational costs, it would mean a 22 percent across-the-board reduction in work hours, hurting the very workers these proposals aim to help.