California Grocers Applaud Final Ruling on L.A. Grocery Worker Retention Ordinance


Contact: Dave Heylen, V.P. Communications California Grocers Association
Tel: 916.448.3545
Fax: 916.448.2793
E-mail: [email protected]

California Grocers Association
1415 L Street, Suite 450
Sacramento, CA 95814

A Victory for Fairness in Food Retailing and Inner City Consumers

SACRAMENTO, CA (March 4, 2008) – The California Grocers Association today applauded the final ruling issued by the Honorable Ralph W. Dau, Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, finding the City of Los Angeles’ Grocery Worker Retention Ordinance to be unconstitutional. CGA characterized the ruling as a victory for fairness in food retailing and for providing increased food options for inner city consumers.

The ordinance, passed in December 2005, was the first attempt in the nation to require a certain class of supermarket retailers to retain workers when a store changed ownership.
Judge Dau found the ordinance unconstitutional on two separate bases:

  • The ordinance conflicts with statewide food safety and food handler laws and is therefore preempted by the California Retail Food Code, and
  • The ordinance’s discrimination between grocery stores based on size and on whether they have a collective bargaining agreement with a union are impermissible distinctions and thus violate the equal protection guarantees of the state and federal Constitutions.

“We are satisfied with Judge Dau’s final ruling,” said Jill Rulon, Acting President, California Grocers Association. “Since the Grocery Worker Retention Ordinance has been in effect, sales of grocery stores from one operator to another in the City of Los Angeles have ceased. Stopping the growth of new retail in the city was just one of the many harmful impacts this law had on city residents.”

“We strongly believed that the ordinance is unlawful and unenforceable because it is 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 City of Los Angeles passed its controversial grocery worker retention ordinance in December 2005. The cities of Santa Monica, San Francisco and Gardena also passed similar ordinances. The California Grocers Association mounted a legal challenge to the ordinance in May 2006 labeling the ordinance improper, unlawful and unenforceable. The case went to trial in August 2007. In October, Judge Dau issued a tentative ruling finding the ordinance to be void on two constitutional bases. A final ruling was issued on February 11, 2008.

“Judge Dau’s decision is a major victory for consumers, particularly those in economically disadvantaged communities where fewer supermarkets means less options and decreased access to affordable produce and meats,” Rulon said. Community and business leaders opposed the ordinance because it encouraged supermarkets and potentially other businesses to locate outside the city limits and to avoid communities where the need is greater.

“The ordinance was a major setback in retailers’ efforts to bring more grocery stores to underserved urban areas,” Rulon added. “ Unfortunately, the City of Los Angeles spent taxpayers’ dollars – money that could have been better spent in this slowing economy – defending a poorly conceived ordinance.”

The California Grocers Association has been the voice of the California food industry since 1898. CGA is a non-profit, statewide trade association representing over 500 retail members operating more than 6,000 food stores in California and Nevada, and approximately 200 grocery supplier companies.