Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide), Chair of the Finance and Housing Committee, introduced legislation this week that would provide hazard pay in recognition of the risks essential grocery store workers face during the pandemic.
Council Bill 119990 would require grocery employees in Seattle to receive hazard pay of $4 per hour during the COVID-19 emergency.
“Grocery store workers have been on the frontlines of this pandemic, interacting with many customers each day in hazardous conditions to ensure Seattle residents can put food on the table. Grocery workers are also experiencing extreme hardships during the COVID economic downfall, losing housing, childcare and more. It’s also not lost on me that the dangers of working in grocery stores during the pandemic are felt especially by our BIPOC communities, as employees of color are overrepresented in the retail frontline workforce and those communities are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Mosqueda said.
According to a British Medical Journal report, grocery workers face serious risk of COVID-19 infection. A study of 104 grocery employees at a grocery store in Boston, Massachusetts found that 20 percent tested positive for COVID-19, despite high mask usage, and reported high emotional and mental health stress.
“Grocery workers have served our community daily through each surge of the virus in our city. In the initial months of COVID-19, many grocery workers received hazard pay recognizing the essential yet hazardous conditions facing employees. Too many employees have stopped receiving this critical payment, which is why cities across the country and Seattle must implement this important proposal,” said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan. “The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact in the lives of certain workers or communities, especially communities of color. As we distribute vaccines and recover, we must center and prioritize the most impacted and vulnerable communities.”
“Now more than ever, with the threat of the COVID 19 virus, grocery store workers are more exposed to illnesses, not only for themselves, but also for their families, as we are on the front lines of the food supply chain. Because of the added risk to their health, there should be some additional compensation,” said Robin Hillistad, a Seattle resident and grocery worker.
“We have worked hard taking care of our customers each day during the pandemic. We have put our lives, and our families lives at risk every day we go to work, making money for the companies. We deserve the basic respect from our employers to be paid hazard pay for all what we have done for them,” said Amy Dayley Angell, a Seattle resident and grocery worker.
The hazard pay for grocery employees legislation will be heard in Mosqueda’s Finance and Housing Committee on Friday, January 22 at 2 p.m.
Once enacted, the hazard pay will be in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. Council may reconsider the legislation at the four month mark which corresponds with the state department of health’s COVID vaccination plan to make vaccines available to all-aged grocery employees by April 2021. The ordinance would not impact convenience stores or food marts primarily selling a limited line of goods.
Several other U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, West Hollywood, Berkeley, Oakland, Montebello, and Long Beach as well as Los Angeles County have announced legislative efforts to require hazard pay for grocery store workers, with more cities expected to follow suit.
The hazard pay for grocery workers legislation follows the City Council’s enactment of premium pay for gig workers working for food delivery network companies and transportation network companies during the pandemic.