BY DAVE PRICE
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.