A community coalition is rallying together to stop Kroger from closing the Ralphs grocery store at the intersection of Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard in the Hyde Park neighborhood in South Los Angeles. The location is officially scheduled to close this Saturday, May 15.
Community leaders have filed a legal injunction to put a stop to the closure. If approved, that would allow community members to file an emergency petition to temporarily stop the closure. For weeks, concerned citizens have also canvassed the neighborhood to drum up support and are currently putting pressure on local politicians.
Most importantly, they are also in the midst of a community boycott, hoping that Ralphs shoppers will side with grocery store workers and the overall economic vitality of their own neighborhood and pledge to stop shopping at Ralphs until the decision has been reversed.
The issue arose when Los Angeles City Council passed an emergency ordinance on March 3, which required large grocery and pharmacy retailers to offer employees an additional $5 per hour in temporary hazard pay, dubbed “Hero Pay.”
“Although they are paying it now (hero pay), they’re closing so they don’t have to keep paying it,” said John Parker, a coordinator from the Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice.
“Stop closing stores over hero pay,” added Anthony Dawahare, who attended Wednesday’s grocery coalition zoom meeting.
However, Kroger, who owns Ralphs and Food 4 Less said the city mandate would make it financially unsustainable to continue operating three underperforming locations in the City of Los Angeles, including the Ralphs on Slauson Avenue.
“It’s never our desire to close a store, but when you factor in the increased costs of operating during COVID-19, consistent financial losses at these three locations, and an extra pay mandate that will cost nearly $20 million over the next 120 days, it becomes impossible to operate these three stores,” said Ralphs in a statement.
“If we didn’t say anything about it. They wouldn’t be on the defensive,” Parker suggested. “Without fighting back, we’re not going to get anything.”
In particular, community leaders said this decision will make this portion of South Los Angeles an even more barren food desert.
“These stores are vital for the community, especially in South Central,” said Parker. “We’re still trying to get the word out about it.”
Meanwhile, the closest Ralphs is more than three miles away at La Brea Avenue and Obama Boulevard. Earlier this month, community leaders led a car caravan to show “the closest store” is not within walking distance, meaning it will have a negative economic impact on the neighborhood, particularly for residents with limited access to transportation.
Community leaders are considering what their next course of action will look like, including protesting on Friday, May 14, or Saturday, May 15 before the store’s slated closure at the end of the business day.
“Most people didn’t know the store was closing,” Parker said. “Total disrespect for the community.”