The shuttered Ralph’s supermarket at Rio Vista and Lincoln.

The Anaheim City Council voted on Tuesday to effectively kill a proposal to impose a $3 an hour premium pay mandate on targeted grocery stores and retailers – a proposal originated by Councilman Jose F. Moreno at the behest of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union.

The UFCW has been a major donor to Councilman Moreno’s campaigns, making the maximum contribution of $1,900 to his 2016 campaign, and again in 2018 with $2,000.

At last week’s council meeting, four of the seven councilmembers made it clear they would not vote for a premium pay ordinance, criticizing it as unnecessary interference that would increase labor costs, leading to store closures and higher food prices.

Nonetheless, Councilmember Avelino Valencia moved to bring back a truncated version of Moreno’s expansive original proposal – which would have imposed premium pay on all grocers, retailers and drug stores in Anaheim.  Declining COVID case rates and rising vaccinations, the impending lifting of pandemic restrictions (including the mask mandate), in addition to existing premium pay and hiring incentives from employers desperate for workers – all make the premium pay mandate unnecessary and arbitrary.

Moreno made a class-warfare, envy-based argument for a premium pay mandate, citing corporate profits and CEO pay. He argued that making it more expensive for affected stores to operate would help Anaheim’s economy “by encouraging local workers to shop local.” In fact, increased labor costs would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices – creating an incentive for local workers to shop outside of Anaheim.

Moreno never explicitly dealt with the reality that a premium pay mandate would lead to higher food prices, disproportionately burdening poor and working families – although he tacitly admitted the destructive impact of his premium pay policy by agreeing to Valencia’s suggestion to restrict it to larger retailers and grocers.

After Councilman Valencia’s pitch for the amended ordinance, Councilman Trevor O’Neil moved to table the ordinance – which would effectively kill it.

“Just last week we had a lengthy discussion of this issue, and a majority of this council clearly expressed opposition to an ordinance like this,” O’Neil pointed out. “But here we are considering it again.”

“To our staff, I’m sorry that your time has been wasted to work on something that we all know has no chance of being adopted when we have so many other important issues to deal with in Anaheim,” continued O’Neil. “And to the public, I’m sorry that there are members of this body who chose to waste taxpayer money in this exercise in futility.”

With that, O’Neil made a motion to table the ordinance, which was supported by Mayor Harry Sidhu and Councilmembers Jose Diaz and Steve Faessel. Councilmembers Moreno, Valencia and Jordan Brandman voted in opposition to tabling.