The Seattle City Council passed an emergency ordinance, unanimously with an 8-0 vote, on Jan. 25 that immediately required grocery store employers to pay their workers an extra $4 per hour in hazard pay for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pay mandated in the bill is an effort to compensate grocery store workers for the risks they take by coming in contact with large numbers of people during the pandemic. It is meant to encourage them to continue their work and “improve their financial ability to access resources to stay safe and healthy.”
Employers would not be allowed to reduce their workers’ pay in response to the hazard pay requirement.
The bill applies to grocers with 500 or more total employees worldwide and 10,000 square feet, and does not include convenience stores. The bill is intended to last until the end of Mayor Jenny Durkan’s COVID-19 civil emergency.
The Burien City Council convened a special meeting Monday night with this issue at the top of their agenda. The council did not deliberate whether or not grocery workers should receive hazard pay but whether this should be a resolution or an ordinance, specifically or broadly applicable and a state or municipal measure.
The Burien effort had been proposed by Deputy Mayor Krystal Marx. City Attorney Garmon Newsom presented a resolution last night, intentionally using broad language instead of trying to pass specifics quickly. He looked to similar measures in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California; he also looked to Seattle, but said the Seattle ordinance was too extensive.
Marx and councilmembers Cydney Moore and Pedro Olguin said the resolution is not quite what grocery store workers want. They agreed that Burien is under-resourced, but disagreed with Newsom about passing a resolution versus working toward an ordinance.
The council agreed to consider voting on the issue at their Feb. 1 regular meeting.
Read more in the Jan. 27 - Feb. 2, 2021 issue.