Council calls special meeting to fix procedural error in ‘hero pay’ ordinance, discuss lawsuit

A day after a lawsuit targeting Long Beach’s new law requiring “hero pay” for grocery workers was filed, officials announced the City Council will meet in a special closed-session meeting Friday at 11 a.m. to discuss the litigation.

The meeting will serve as a briefing to council members about the suit filed against the city by the California Grocers Association and as an opportunity to fix what City Attorney Charles Parkin called a procedural error in passing the law.

The ordinance, which mandates a $4 per-hour raise for grocery workers for at least the next 120 days, was adopted as an emergency ordinance at Tuesday night’s council meeting, meaning it went into effect as soon as the mayor signed it Wednesday. A non-emergency ordinance wouldn’t take effect until 30 days after the mayor’s signature.

When adopting an emergency ordinance, the council typically takes two votes during the process, the first to declare the urgency of it, and a second vote to actually adopt it. But a review of footage from Tuesday’s council meeting confirmed that the members voted just once on the ordinance.

The missing second vote was cited in the lawsuit in an attempt to thwart the immediate implementation of the hero pay mandate, but Parkin said that will likely be fixed Friday.

“I’m going to have the council take the two votes and make the effective date Tuesday [Jan. 19.],” Parkin said.

The California Grocers Association filed its suit against the city Wednesday alleging the hero pay law was unconstitutional and violated collective bargaining agreements with unionized employees while unfairly targeting grocers’ employees and not mandating that other essential businesses pay their employees more during the pandemic.

A representative from the association confirmed Wednesday that the suit against Long Beach is the first one filed in response to a hero-pay mandate. Los Angeles County and other cities in Orange County are considering similar orders but Long Beach was the first city to approve its hero pay mandate.

The suit is seeking an injunction to stop the ordinance from taking effect until it can be challenged in court.

Parkin said that the city did anticipate some sort of challenge to the law and that the meeting Friday was called because the case could potentially come before a judge as quickly as a few days from now.

While it’s unclear what the council’s input will be tomorrow morning, he doubts it will include a motion to pull the plug on hero pay.

“I don’t know what our council’s direction is going to be in the closed session, but I sincerely doubt that they’ll change course,” Parkin said.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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