Court Rejects Los Angeles Grocery Worker Retention Ordinance

The Second District Court of Appeal in Sacramento, Calif., upheld a trial court ruling July 30 that the City of Los Angeles Grocery Worker Retention Ordinance -- the first attempt in the nation to require a certain class of supermarket retailers to retain workers when a store changes ownership -- is unconstitutional.

“We were confident our arguments against the ordinance were sound, and the majority of the court agreed," said California Grocers Association (CGA) president and CEO Ronald Fong, who added that the CGA was satisfied with the ruling.

In a two-to-one decision, the majority ruled in CGA’s favor on two separate bases: the court found that the California Retail Food Code (CRFC) pre-empted this local attempt at creating a health and safety standard both because of the ordinance’s express statement that it was adopted for health and safety purposes and because its provisions impose more onerous standards for retaining employees than those of the CRFC.

The court found that the ordinance intrudes on the collective bargaining process as outlined by the National Labor Relations Act by subjecting employers to successorship obligations not provided for in the federal act.

The City of Los Angeles passed the grocery worker retention ordinance in December 2005. The cities of Santa Monica, San Francisco and Gardena have also passed similar ordinances.

In May 2006, CGA began a legal challenge to the ordinance, calling it improper, unlawful and unenforceable. The case went to trial in August 2007. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ralph W. Dau issued a final ruling in February 2008, finding the ordinance to be unconstitutional.

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 CGA is a nonprofit, statewide trade association that represents approximately 500 retail members operating over 6,000 food stores in California and Nevada, and about 200 grocery supplier companies. Retail membership includes chain and independent supermarkets, convenience stores and mass merchandisers.
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