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LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance this week that would make it more difficult for a company that acquires a supermarket to fire the old owner's workers for at least three months.
In spite of a threatened lawsuit by the grocery industry, the ordinance passed by a margin of 11 to two, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The business community vigorously opposed the measure, which it said would cost the city tax revenue by causing grocery stores to operate beyond the city limits.
According to a spokesman, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will sign the ordinance into law. The measure would require the buyers of grocery stores larger than 15,000 square feet to retain existing employees for a minimum 90 days. After that period, the acquiring company would have to undertake written performance evaluations of employees, and if a worker receives a satisfactory evaluation, the new owner would have to consider offering a job to that worker before looking at outside candidates. The ordinance would also require work force reductions to be determined by seniority.
"[The measure] recognizes the plight of grocery workers. We have lost so many jobs as a result of mergers and the fact that a lot of the stores have been taken over by nonunion entities," Rick Icaza, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union Local 770 in Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times. He estimated that the ordinance would affect more than 500 grocery stores in the city.
Two councilmen voted against the ordinance, saying that such regulations would deter supermarkets from opening or staying open in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods where markets are scant.
The California Grocers Association (CGA) said the ordinance was in conflict with federal and state laws and unfairly exempted stores measuring less than 15,000 square feet.
Following the council's vote, CGA president Peter Larkin told the newspapers that he would need to confer with the organization's board of directors about a possible legal challenge to the ordinance.