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Seattle Council Considers Hazard Pay For Grocery Store Workers

Patch logo Patch 1/22/2021 Lucas Combos
a person sitting on display in a store: The lesiglation follows the implementation of hazard pay for food delivery drivers, which was unanimously approved in Seattle in June 2020. © Shutterstock/Colleen Michaels The lesiglation follows the implementation of hazard pay for food delivery drivers, which was unanimously approved in Seattle in June 2020.

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council is considering legislation that would institute $4 in hourly hazard pay for essential grocery store workers through at least April.

The new legislation, formally introduced on Friday, would cover grocery employees of all ages and would not apply to convenience stores or food marts "primarily selling a limited line of goods." Last year, the council unanimously approved a similar measure that required food delivery apps to pay drivers an extra $2.50 per delivery during the pandemic.

The grocery bill, sponsored by council budget chair Teresa Mosqueda, would allow council members to reconsider the legislation in four months, matching the state's target of making vaccines available to essential workers of all ages by April.

"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," Mosqueda said. "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. "

The legislation is also supported by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who said the city must act to mandate the payments, which many companies only provided in the earliest months of the pandemic.

"Grocery workers have served our community daily through each surge of the virus in our city," Durkan said. "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."

Mosqueda pointed to a study of dozens of grocery store workers in Boston, which found 20 percent tested positive for COVID-19 and experienced elevated emotional and mental stress. Other cities considering similar legislation include Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland.

The legislation was slated to get its first hearing at council Friday afternoon, and a final vote will be scheduled at a later date.


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