Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide), Chair of the Finance and Housing Committee, and her Council colleagues voted 8-0 in favor of legislation that will provide hazard pay to grocery store workers, recognizing the risks essential grocery store workers face during the pandemic.
The Council passed Council Bill 119990, requiring grocery employees in Seattle to receive hazard pay of $4 per hour during the COVID-19 emergency. The legislation was co-sponsored by Councilmembers M. Lorena González, Lisa Herbold, Tammy J. Morales, Kshama Sawant, Dan Strauss and Andrew J. Lewis.
“Hazard pay for grocery workers is the least we can do to recognize the dangers they face when going to work, including unmasked customers, customers who are coughing and not respecting social distancing rules, and cleaning of commonly used surfaces. Many grocery stores were paying their workers hazard pay early on in the pandemic, but that recognition quickly went away last summer, despite grocery store workers still facing serious risk of contracting COVID-19 at their workplace. Grocery store workers are sacrificing their health to make sure shelves are stocked, but we should not treat grocery store workers as sacrificial. When they are essential to feeding Seattle families and putting food on our tables. Requiring hazard pay fairly compensates grocery workers for putting themselves at risk, and also risking their family’s health and the financial burdens they may face should they contract COVID,” Councilmember Mosqueda said.
“I applaud Councilmember Teresa Mosquesda’s leadership and City Council’s passage of Hazard Pay legislation for grocery store workers. A disproportionate number of people of color are essential workers, and Seattle can continue to lead the way to provide relief and respect for tens of thousands of grocery store workers – most who are front-line essential workers who have kept our stores open and neighborhoods fed over the past year. This additional pay is a strong step forward in Seattle’s recovery,” said Mayor Jenny A. Durkan.
“It’s been a year since COVID-19 was first identified in our communities. While many stayed home to stay healthy, grocery workers continued on the job, many with no additional compensation for the risk, to keep us fed and healthy. With a new more contagious strain of COVID-19 present in our area, this work becomes even more dangerous, not just to workers but their loved ones sharing a household. Hazard pay is the minimum we can do to support the sacrifices of working people during these times,” said Council President M. Lorena González, and a co-sponsor of the legislation.
“Providing food to Seattle families has put grocery store workers on the pandemic front lines, yet they have not been paid hazard pay for nearly eight months. While I wish we could require hazard pay for all essential workers, this legislation is focused on large grocery stores, most who have massive profits from a shift in consumer behavior,” said co-sponsor Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle and South Park).
“Hazard pay recognizes the increased risk these workers face doing essential work so all of us can put food on the table. This compensation will provide a safety net should they become sick and seek medical care, or care for a sick family member,” said Councilmember Andrew J. Lewis (District 7, Pioneer Square to Magnolia).
Hazard pay for grocery store workers will be in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, though Council may reconsider the legislation at the four month mark. This timeframe 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.
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.
Seattle’s legislation follows other U.S. cities, including Berkeley, Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Francisco, West Hollywood, Berkeley, Oakland, Montebello, and Los Angeles County, which have either passed or announced legislative efforts to require hazard pay for grocery store workers.