Another day, another reason for businesses to avoid or get the heck out of California.
The bright bulbs of Los Angeles’ City Council last week approved a measure mandating local supermarkets to compensate their front line employees with an additional $5 an hour in “hero pay” for working during the pandemic. The City of Long Beach approved a similar measure in January.
Guess what? Kroger demonstrated you can indeed fight City Hall.
The national chain promptly announced it would close three Los Angeles stores in response to the “hero pay” measure. Kroger’s L.A. closings weren’t a surprise. Kroger in late January announced the closing of two Long Beach supermarkets after the coastal city and port passed a similar mandate.
I’m confident in saying that most Angelenos agree that front line supermarket workers deserve special pay for putting themselves at risk to serve the public during the pandemic. Unfortunately, the workers are employed by a publicly traded corporation focused on profits, not doing the right thing. The bean counters at Kroger’s Cincinnati headquarters crunched the numbers and determined the best thing for the company’s shareholders was to close some poorly performing stores.
The good intentioned measure cost hundreds of low-paid workers their jobs and various communities, including possibly mine, their local supermarkets. As best I can tell, city councilors in L.A. and Long Beach had no Plan B to provide alternative employment for the workers they supposedly wanted to protect.
Not what I’d expect from a city whose mayor attended the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.
In San Francisco, Walgreens has closed at least seven locations because shoplifting is so pervasive that homeless people routinely walk into the stores and help themselves to whatever products they want. One of the locations served a neighborhood heavily comprised of elderly residents. Walgreens admirably doesn’t want to put its employees at risk and instructs them not to intervene.
There’s no point calling the cops, even if one is available given the department’s budget cuts. Under Proposition 47, theft under $950 is a misdemeanor in California. The initiative was spearheaded by George Gascon when he was San Francisco’s District Attorney. He’s now District Attorney for Los Angeles County.
San Francisco’s tragic homeless population, pervasive car break ins and other property crimes, and high rents has sparked an exodus. A recent study found a nine percent increase in residents moving out of the city and a 21 percent decrease in people moving in during the last three quarters of 2020 compared with the same period a year earlier.
No surprise here. Twitter and other Bay area companies have announced they will allow employees to work from home indefinitely, prompting techies to relocate to less costly areas offering a better quality of life. Yes, the Twitter that received a controversial tax break nine years ago to locate its headquarters in a dilapidated San Francisco neighborhood and last year basically told the city to go f— itself.
Meanwhile, venture capitalist Jason Calacanis, an early-stage investor in Uber, Robinhood, and Thumbtack, urged entrepreneurs to avoid California. “This place is really broken,” he tweeted.
Major California companies, including Hewlett Packard and Oracle, already heeded Calancanis’ counsel and relocated to Texas, as has Elon Musk, a major critic of the state’s leadership. Bloomberg this past weekend declared that “Texas Is the Future – If Only It Doesn’t Become California.”
If Horace Greeley were alive today, he’d advise, “Go southwest, young man.”
There’s possibly some good news on the horizon. A movement to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom has gathered the requisite votes to put it to a vote. Orrin Heatlie, one of the leaders of the effort, triumphantly declared: “Politics as usual in California are over as we know it to be.”
Amen to that!