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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Calling Los Angeles' "Grocery Worker Retention Ordinance" improper, unlawful, and unenforceable, the California Grocers Association (CGA) here filed a lawsuit yesterday in Los Angeles Superior Court, challenging a law that the trade group says will limit consumer choice for working families, especially in economically disadvantaged communities.
The lawsuit charges that the ordinance is unlawful and unenforceable because it's preempted by federal labor relations laws, violates the equal protection rights of employers, conflicts with state food-related health and safety laws, and improperly dictates rules of employment. The ordinance represents the first attempt in the nation to require a certain class of supermarket retailers to retain workers when a store changes ownership.
"This ordinance violates equal protection requirements by singling out a certain class of grocery retailers without placing similar requirements on competitors," said Peter Larkin, president of CGA. "By dictating the hiring decisions of successor employers for 90 days, the ordinance also interferes with state and federal labor relations laws."
The association also believes the measure will put severe limits on consumer choice.
"Fewer supermarkets in the city of Los Angeles mean fewer options for residents who need ready access to fresh and affordable produce and meats," noted Larkin. "It's a shame that as we're educating entire communities about the importance of healthy diets, roadblocks are thrown up limiting healthy food choices for children and their parents."
Community and business leaders believe the measure will encourage supermarkets and potentially other businesses to locate outside the city limits instead of in communities where the need is greater.
In a letter to the City Council, Carol Schatz, president and c.e.o. of the Central City Association of Los Angeles, wrote, "An ordinance of this type unfairly burdens business and discourages investment in many underserved communities of the city." Steven A. Soto, president and c.e.o. of the Mexican American Grocers Association, said in his letter to the city council, "We believe this ordinance would be counterproductive to our mutual goals of maximizing economic stability in our communities."
"City Council members fast-tracked this ordinance for approval with little input from the community. There is nothing in the public record to suggest that studies were conducted by city staff to identify the impact it will have on working families who reside inside city limits, or on the businesses both small and large who will be regulated," said Rusty Hammer, president and c.e.o. of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. "This ordinance...will translate into fewer jobs and higher grocery costs."