Long Beach turns itself into a food desert

Long Beach is now short two big grocery stores. 

Ralph's and Food 4 Less have shut their doors, unable to sustain the city council's order that they raise worker "hero pay" by $4 an hour, pretty much forever.

According to the Epoch Times:

Grocery chain Kroger said it closed down two California stores Saturday after the Long Beach City Council approved a COVID-19-related "hero pay" ordinance that increased wages by $4 per hour.

The pay increase, mandated in January, was for workers who were employed at pharmacies and retail stores with 300 or more employees in the Southern California city.

The move was announced earlier this year, but the Ralph's and Food 4 Less—both operated by Kroger—were shut down on April 17, employees told local media outlets.

"As a result of the City of Long Beach's decision to pass an ordinance mandating Extra Pay for grocery workers, we have made the difficult decision to permanently close long-struggling store locations in Long Beach," said a spokesperson for Kroger several weeks ago. "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."

So instead of highly compensated "hero" workers as dictated by the central planners, the city has got 300 more heading for the unemployment lines.  Proud of yourselves, morons?

It's not as if they didn't have warnings — they most certainly did.  Los Angeles passed a $5-an-hour "hero pay" measure and got a wave of shutdowns to show for it.

That didn't register with the clowns on the Long Beach City Council, who passed the "hero pay" legislation of their own, late, way, way late into the pandemic this past January.  Groceries warned that the increased labor cost of 28% would soar well ahead of the grocers' tiny 2.2% profit margins, rendering their businesses unsustainable.  That was brushed off as union ignoramuses and rabid-left crazies falsely yelled that groceries were more profitable than ever.

According to trade publication Supermarket News, which has an excellent, balanced report, here's the hard numbers on the problem:

CGA [California Grocers Association] said it commissioned a study finding that grocery costs for a family of four could increase by $400 a year with a $5-per-hour extra pay mandate, as proposed in Los Angeles County. The report pegged grocery industry average profits at 2.2% during early to mid-2020, at the height of pandemic-triggered panic buying, but determined that the higher wage would hike overall costs 4.5%, twice the size of the industry profit margin and three times historical profit margins.

"The Long Beach City Council rushed to enact the misguided extra pay mandate without any meaningful dialogue with grocers in their community. We repeatedly warned that a $4/hour increase would have major unintended consequences, including potential store closures, the reduction of work for employees, and higher grocery costs for customers," according to CGA's Fong, who said a $4 hourly increase translates to a roughly 28% rise in retailers' labor costs. "There's no way grocers can absorb that big of a cost increase without an offset somewhere else, considering grocers operate with razor-thin margins and many stores already operate in the red. The Long Beach City Council put politics ahead of families and jobs in the middle of a pandemic. This was entirely avoidable. We are hopeful that Long Beach and other cities reconsider these misguided proposals that do far more harm than good."

That didn't stop leftists from yelling in an amazing miasma of ignorant smog and false claims about grocery stores being wicked and evil for not wanting to do business where they would very certainly lose money.  I read through some of this crap and couldn't believe my eyes.  According to LAProgressive, here was the basic tone: "Genocidal U.S. government should take a lesson from the revolutionary people's government of Cuba.  Access to fresh food is a human right and all workers are provided for equally.  Profits are never a consideration in ensuring essential services are accessible to all."  Some of the protests were led by this mad dog, famous leftist Ron Gochez, the freak who disrupted the Cuban Ladies in White rally in Echo Park (I was there, literally next to now-Epoch Times columnist Roger Simon) with a Che Guevara banner.  Gochez has been involved in a lot of pro-communist causes; it's hard to name a really crazy one he isn't.  In his day job, he teaches, or did, in Los Angeles–area public schools.

The stores, though, patiently kept trying to tell them that the dictated pay hikes were unsustainable, and yes, they would have to close.  Instead of scrapping the bill, or giving the groceries a tax break to offset the additional costs, these Long Beach Keystone Kouncilmembers first opted after these warnings from big grocers to help the big stores' competitors, which were the smaller stores, with free refrigeration equipment to sell fresh food at government expense — and got just one taker — that's right, just one — based on their own list, although they apparently contradictorily claim in their summary that was actually three "corner stores."  (It may be that the competitor helped had three tiny stores.)

With that a failure, they then bulled through to raise the costs of the bigger groceries with this old-news "hero pay" as if no one had ever done hazardous duty to keep food on the table.  Like these guys.  It's almost as if they wanted to put the big groceries out of business in favor, who knows, of their smaller cronies. 

Now they're yelling, calling the stores bad guys for refusing to operate on an unsustainable economic model.  That's not going to bring them back.  And yes, Long Beach apparently does have features of a food desert.  I don't have an accurate count of how many big or big-and-little groceries they have.  A USDA food desert map is hopelessly outdated at 2015, but there is evidence that a lot of people who are poor and reliant on public transportation in Long Beach have found themselves stiffed.

These morons remain proud of themselves.  And rest assured: they will try more of what they are doing on other businesses, even as their tax revenues falter.  The only losers here are the consumers.

Image: Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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