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Seattle approves hazard pay for grocery workers

Cashiers at a grocery store sanitize a card reader and the checkout area.
Steve Senne
The Associated Press file
Cashiers at a grocery store sanitize a card reader and the checkout area.

Seattle has joined other cities in approving extra pay for grocery store workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City Council on Monday approved legislation requiring large groceries to pay an extra $4 an hour in hazard pay.

The Seattle Times reports the legislation passed 8-0, clearing a requirement that it receive a three-quarter super-majority in order to go into effect immediately. Mayor Jenny Durkan called the policy “a strong step forward in Seattle’s recovery.”

The new requirement applies to grocery companies with more than 500 employees worldwide and to stores larger than 10,000 square feet. It does not apply to convenience stores or farmers markets.

Covered businesses will have to pay their retail employees $4 an hour on top of the pay they currently receive as long as the city’s coronavirus civil emergency, first declared in early March of last year, remains in effect.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, the legislation’s lead sponsor, noted that the City Council has been meeting remotely since March, because of the pandemic, and that she often orders groceries online and picks them up outside the store. That’s not possible for grocery workers.

“They have been going in to work every single day and we appreciate them,” Mosqueda said.

Catherine Holm, legal council and legislative director for the Washington Food Industry Association, said the bill doesn’t cover all retail workers, which “gives the message that other essential workers are not important.”

She said grocers have very low profit margins and those have fallen further with added COVID costs.

The California cities of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Berkeley have within the past month forwarded or approved similar “hazard pay” boosts for grocery workers.

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