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Putting ‘heroes’ out of work with a mandatory wage hike

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A case out of California shows the perils of politicians’ ordering raises for private-sector workers — and thereby killing their jobs.

The City Council of Long Beach recently passed a law ordering grocery-store companies with over 300 employees nationwide to pay local workers an extra $4 per hour for at least the next few months. The “hero pay” mandate was supposed to reward brave grocery employees risking infection to work through the pandemic — but Long Beach didn’t actually pay for the bonus itself, so it wound up costing 200 heroes their jobs.

Kroger, the nation’s largest operator of traditional supermarkets, announced that the increased labor costs were too much for two of its stores, Ralphs and the downmarket Food 4 Less, to maintain: It would’ve meant a 30 percent pay hike on top of the area’s $14 minimum wage.

And that’s after Kroger spent $1.3 billion on rewarding workers and boosting their safety amid the pandemic.

Meanwhile, a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that President Biden’s plan to implement a $15 federal minimum wage would kill 1.4 million jobs and almost double the federal deficit.

Consider just grocery stores in the 21 states covered by the current federal minimum wage of $7.25: They’re looking at hourly pay doubling under the Raise the Wage Act.

Kroger, for one, is already looking to replace too-costly workers with technology: It’s opening an all-self-checkout pilot store in Dallas later this month, employing cashiers only as backup.

Instead of helping low-wage workers, an exorbitant minimum wage will only keep them from working at all — robbing them of the chance to earn promotions to well-paying jobs. It’s a mandate for never earning a living wage at all.

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