By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A federal judge Thursday denied the California Grocers Association’s bid to temporarily overturn a Long Beach ordinance mandating an additional $4 in hourly pay for grocery store employees during the pandemic.

In a Thursday tweet, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia called the ruling, “Amazing news,” and saying that the city had “won” the lawsuit, though the case is ongoing with another hearing scheduled for March 22.

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“We are disappointed that the court declined our request for a preliminary injunction and strongly believe our case has merit,” said Ron Fong, CGA’s president and CEO. “The court noted several potentially problematic aspects of the Long Beach ordinance and stated that its decision was limited.

“We remain confident that these extra pay ordinances will not withstand legal scrutiny,” he continued. “We intend to appeal this ruling on the preliminary injunction and look forward to presenting our arguments to the 9th Circuit [Court of Appeals] in the coming weeks.”

The lawsuit, filed last month in Los Angeles, alleged that the Jan. 19 ordinance was illegal because it singles out grocery stores while ignoring other groups that employ essential frontline workers thus violating the constitutional requirement that similarly situated people must be treated alike. The CGA also argued that the ordinance was preempted by the National Labor Relations Act, which protects the integrity of the collective-bargaining process.

“Until a year ago, essential grocery workers would have never thought that their jobs would be considered life-threatening,” Andrea Zinder, president of UFCW Local 324, said. “But now, a year into the pandemic, grocery workers have to prepare themselves for what they may face at work, and what they may bring home to their families when they clock out for the day.

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“We applaud the court for recognizing that essential grocery workers don’t have the luxury of working from home and that their sacrifice deserves compensation,” she continued. “We hope other cities in our state also recognize the hard work essential grocery workers do to keep our communities going.”

Fong countered that firefighters, police officers and healthcare workers, as well as transportation, sanitation and restaurant workers, were also essential, “yet grocers are the only businesses being targeted for extra pay mandates. We look forward to our day in court to contest the legality of this ordinance.”

Ultimately Judge Otis D. Wright II concluded that the CGA failed to establish a likelihood of success on its claims and denied the association’s request.

“CGA utterly fails to address why the ordinance is not an appropriate means for … fairly compensating grocery workers for the hazards they encounter as essential workers,” he wrote.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted 14-1 to preliminarily approve an emergency ordinance to require large grocery and pharmacy retailers to offer employees an additional $5 per hour in hazard pay. A final vote is expected next week.

The vote came the day after the L.A. County Board of Supervisors adopted its emergency ordinance to require a $5 per hour pay bump for national grocery and drug retail employees in unincorporated areas of the county.

The CGA has also filed suits against West Hollywood and Montebello, seeking the declare hazard pay mandated by those cities as invalid and unconstitutional.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)