Opinion: ‘Hero Pay’ or ‘Hazard Pay’ proposal is unfair, risky


Daily Post Editor

It’s odd that local governments, such as the city of San Carlos, are just now deciding to force grocery stores to boost their wages by as much as $5 an hour for essential employees during the Covid pandemic.

To sell this to a skeptical public, they’re calling these bonuses “hazard pay” or “hero pay.”

If these city officials were so concerned about these heroes, why didn’t they do this a year ago when the pandemic began?

My guess is that most of the council members and top city officials are so insulated from the real world that they don’t know any store clerks personally, and have no idea what difficulties they were going through.

Increasingly governments at all levels are run by well-paid elitists who don’t understand the difficulties faced by working-class people.

What about the other heroes?

But the proposal before the San Carlos City Council tonight should be rejected because it’s unfair to all of the other “heroes” who don’t have a powerful union to lobby the politicians on their behalf.

What about the housekeepers, gardeners, mechanics, janitors, plumbers, electricians, day care workers, nurses, cops and firefighters who had to continue going to work every day during the crisis? Those people weren’t able to work from home like the elites on the city council. Where’s their “hero” pay?

Stores already raised their pay

My advice is to drop the hero pay business altogether. Not because these people don’t deserve it, but it should be up to the employer.

Many employers such as Trader Joe’s, CVS, Lucky’s and Walgreens raised the pay of their front-line workers during the pandemic. In fact, Trader Joe’s bumped up their pay twice, describing the second raise in February as a “thank you.”

If an employee doesn’t like what they make, they can get a job elsewhere. When there’s a shortage of workers, the pay will go up to retain them.

Another way to make more money is to improve your education. If your California public school education only equips you to rise to the level of a store clerk, then you need a better education. Community colleges all over the state are offering classes that lead to degrees with free tuition. You can take classes at night. But you have to decide to improve yourself. You shouldn’t expect to make big money if you’re not willing to work for it.

The idea that hero pay would be a solution to something illustrates another point — that many council members don’t understand business.

Grocery stores operate on slim profit margins, often just 1% or 2%. Let’s say a local government, like San Carlos, forces stores to raise wages from $15 an hour to $20 — a 33% pay increase. The forced pay increase wipes out the store’s slim profit margin.

At that point, the store can:

1. raise prices,

2. fire the workers and switch to automation, or

3. shut down.

Stores close

In Southern California, Kroger plans to close three stores in cities where $5 an hour hero pay will be imposed.
Kroger’s move took away the virtue signaling moment the activists had been expecting with hero pay.

When a grocery store in San Carlos closes, the workers who have lost their jobs should be allowed to have an in-person meeting with the council members who voted for hero pay. The workers should confront them and ask, “Who gave you permission to take away my job?” and “Are you going to pull money out of your wallet and pay my bills?”

Of course the council members will duck the meeting and pretend it’s somebody else’s fault. If stores start to close, remember the names of these council members and vote them out when they run next time. (We’ll provide some reminders on the Opinion page. We have a long memory.)

Other people’s money

And here’s some advice to council members — often virtue signaling is harmless, like when you ban plastic straws. It just makes the city look ridiculous. However, when you virtue signal using other people’s money, the consequences can be lost jobs and boarded up businesses. Think twice before destroying your political future.

Editor Dave Price’s column appears on Monday. His email address is [email protected].


  1. I’m confused why grocery store clerks would lobby for higher wages if it would lead to them losing their jobs. Shouldn’t they be to blame for losing their jobs if they lobbied for it?

  2. I think that with the raises the grocery workers got, they haven’t been pushing for hazard pay. That’s something the Local 5 union is doing without the buy-in from the workers.

  3. I talked to some of these employees and all of them agree on the stress factor during this pandemic. Here’s some examples

    Customers that don’t want to wear masks in the store

    Customers that cough without a mask on or cover their mouth

    Customers that have symptoms of covid 19
    Also if you wear a mask for a two hour shift, you are cutting off any fresh air supply that your body needs. Humans need air more than a surgical mask. It’s a big contradiction. I don’t know if it’s worth the extra five dollars pay increase but whatever. I also heard of employee complaining of headaches and fatigue. Why? You wear a mask all day cutting off fresh air supply you will get light headed. You’re also in doors all day and you’re not next to a Redwood Tree that can give you that oxygen you need. I think it’s called photo synthesis. Are you to stupid to breathe? Why? Because you need air but you need to wear a mask too.
    What? Hazard pay or hero pay? Like saying pay me more so I can continue to suffocate. Pay me more because I’m breathing my own bad breath all day. Pay me more because this is like a suicide mission of no air for me. What options are there? Close the damn store and everyone go home and shop online. Yes, put more stress on Postal workers UPS, Fed Ex and Amazon Drivers. How about robots? One good thing about robots is their good servants if you program them too.by the way, Do robots need air?

  4. One overlooked element of this important editorial is the fundamental role of the state and local flow of the all important tax base. It may just be simple mathematics. The greater the worker income, the greater the size of his income tax burden. This would be a win-win for the local San Carlos pols because it creates a good-guy image, and makes it appear they’re supporting the essential worker performing hazardous duty during economic uncertainty. But at the same time, the local San Carlos City bureaucrats would also indirectly increase the income tax size of the state & local revenue stream, which is, after all, the prime motivational force in every pol’s short, uncertain, political life.

  5. I don’t think the store employees are thinking clearly. Safeway employees have covered the buttons where you enter your PIN at checkout with cellophane. Now what’s the point of doing that? If you believe the virus is transmitted by objects (no science supports that, but people believe it), then the virus is left on the cellophane for the next shopper who goes through that checkout line. I think these Safeway employees are so upset they’re not thinking clearly.

  6. If I recall correctly, San Carlos Mayor Laura Parmer-Lohan pushed the idea of “hero pay” after reading an article that said grocery workers were catching COVID-19 more often than other people. She wasn’t going by any kind of personal experience or because she had friends who told her they were getting sick. I think that if she had acquaintances who held these jobs, she would have learned whether they were was a problem last year, when the pandemic began.

  7. The stores that voluntarily paid “hero paid” made a smart business decision. It demonstrated the concern of management for the well-being of their employees, and earned the gratitude and loyalty of their staff. But a government-mandated pay boost is just another entitlement which people see as their due. Consider: People are grateful for charitable assistance, but how often do people send thank you notes for their welfare check?

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