FOLLOWUP: City Council approves hazard pay for most grocery-store workers

If a grocery-store worker has a job in Seattle with a company that employs at least 500 people worldwide, they could be in line for a temporary $4/hour raise. This afternoon, the City Council approved the $4/hour hazard-pay proposal – mentioned briefly here last week. Here’s the slide deck with key points:

You can read the full bill here. The bill was sponsored by West Seattle-residing at-large Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda and co-sponsored by six others including District 1 Councilmember Lisa Herbold. In a news release announcing the vote, Mosqueda is quoted as explaining, ““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.”

41 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: City Council approves hazard pay for most grocery-store workers"

  • onion January 25, 2021 (5:25 pm)

    I’m not opposed to these workers getting extra pay, but I don’t like the reckless way this council spends other peoples’ money (and ours, but that’s a different post).

    • Marim January 25, 2021 (11:41 pm)

      Hi , it sounds like you are opposed to the hazard pay requirement though….

    • Stephen January 26, 2021 (4:07 pm)


  • StillSadAboutBridge January 25, 2021 (5:26 pm)

    Legislation is wordy but also seems like there is a loophole. “No employer shall, as a result of this ordinance going into effect, take steps to reduce employee compensation so as to prevent, in whole or in part, employees from receiving hazard pay at a rate of four dollars per hour for each hour worked in Seattle in addition to those employees’ other compensation. Employers shall maintain records to establish the reason(s) for any reduction in employee compensation pursuant to Section 100.040.”

    I’m no legal scholar but it seems to me that this only affects their hourly rate but does not include language about their overall compensation (i.e. hours worked in a week/month). Can grocery stores legally reduce hours for their employees to offset the additional hazard pay requirements? Any employment lawyers out there?

    • Cat January 26, 2021 (9:11 am)

      It depends on how the union contract reads. Most of the grocery employees affected by this have a contract in place. 

  • Question Authority January 25, 2021 (5:28 pm)

    A noble effort but the migration to buy cheaper outside the City limits has officially begun.

  • Mj January 25, 2021 (5:42 pm)

    Safeway’s/grocery store employees are unionized with a negotiated Contract and I have not seen data that shows that grocery store workers have a higher incidents of Covid due to their job?

    • heartless January 25, 2021 (7:16 pm)

      I don’t know whether or not you’ve seen the data.  But data exists, and is an easy Google search away.

      • WSB January 25, 2021 (7:52 pm)

        Here is the state list of businesses/facilities that report outbreaks – by type, not specific business name

        This is updated weekly, same URL.

        • SeattleMom January 26, 2021 (7:47 am)

          From that data, WSB, it looks like Grocery workers are up there with similar risk to those in congregate housing.  That is significantly higher than other groups they looked at.  They have earned their hazard pay.

        • smittytheclown January 26, 2021 (8:40 am)

          I must be missing something.  Out of 305,000 cases in the state only 137 were grocery workers?How many grocery workers are there?  What is that case percentage compared to the general public? Is it higher or lower than the 4% total state case rate (305,000/7.7M).Are we focused on the right things?

          • WSB January 26, 2021 (9:02 am)

            No, these qre OUTBREAKS, not cases.

      • Marim January 25, 2021 (11:44 pm)

        Not seeing a lot of support so far for our folks working day in and day out with the masses in a pandemic. 

    • Mellow Kitty January 26, 2021 (10:14 am)

      @MJ – Safeway is looking for employees. Apparently it’s safe – why don’t you go apply for a cashier or deli position. After all, your chances of catching a deadly virus is nill. You should be fine. SMDH

  • d January 25, 2021 (5:44 pm)

    Hoping it’s retroactive

  • Mongo January 25, 2021 (5:46 pm)

    There are a wide range of folks in many types of businesses who are required to work during the pandemic, in customer-facing roles.  I have yet to see any well-supported rationale put forward as to why this type of legislation should be applied to those who work in grocery stores, but not in other such types of businesses.   So why are grocery store workers being singled out for special treatment?(Before the first person with poor reading comprehension skills chimes in as if I’m criticizing this initiative, let me be explicit.  I’m not at all commenting on that.  Just wondering why it only applies to those essential workers in grocery stores.)

  • Walter Small January 25, 2021 (6:00 pm)

    What about all essential workers? Where I work I am required to be at work EVERYDAY, And have been required since the pandemic began. I feel like it’s a slap in my face because I am not a “grocery worker”

    • Foop January 26, 2021 (12:24 am)

      They have a union, you could likely unionize or gather with others in your industry and appeal to local govt too. They didn’t just complain on the internet, they organized. Just because you don’t get it doesn’t mean you should try to keep others from getting theirs. 

  • H. January 25, 2021 (6:22 pm)

    I am curious were a store like Thriftway falls. They are a independently owned with fewer then 500 employees. So no hazard pay? The way I am reading this, they would be the only store on the westside who would not have to pay the $4 increase (everyone else has multiple locations and well over 500 employees becuase of that). 

    • Walter Small January 25, 2021 (7:23 pm)

      H. Thriftway if not the only independently business owned with fewer then 500 employees. 

    • Walter Small January 25, 2021 (7:26 pm)

      Thriftway Is also protected by UFCW local 21 as are Safeway, QFC, PCC and Metropolitan Market

    • Walter Small January 25, 2021 (7:31 pm)

      Not the only store in West Seattle. I work for a business in the Junction with fewer than 500 employees that is considered essential. Where do we fall in this topic?

    • Chemist January 26, 2021 (12:17 am)

      The rules include franchises at retail locations over 10000 sq feet so if ws thriftway is large enough then all the other thriftway franchises also count towards the 500 worker requirement.  I think WS Thriftway workers will get this bump, if they don’t have it already.

  • CB January 25, 2021 (6:27 pm)

    Council is looking to curry favor with the grocery union.  That’s what this is really about.  

    • Marim January 25, 2021 (11:48 pm)

      Hi, why does the council need to curry favor with the grocery union?

  • West Side Long Timer January 25, 2021 (6:27 pm)

    Why is the city council meddling in private enterprise?  This is surely not their expertise nor do I believe their right. . The free market should determine hourly wages. Where does it stop?  The council got involved in the pay (and unionization) of ride sharing. Now grocery. What’s next?

  • melissa January 25, 2021 (7:12 pm)

    Fantastic! It would be wonderful to see this extended to other essential workers, but it’s wonderful that it’s been applied to the people from whom many of us purchase our food and who can’t avoid close contact with the general public (and therefore increased chance of exposure). We’re thrilled to see the Council spend money in such a productive fashion. It’s saddening to see the NIMBYism in the comments here. 

  • norsegirl January 25, 2021 (7:15 pm)

    Masks and barriers and 6 foot distancing are not guarantees against Covid infection.  The nature of the people-encountering jobs present a degree of Covid risk even with safety precautions.  Anyone (not just Safeway checkers) who  is deemed an essential worker and encounters people as a fundamental component of his/her job should receive the hazard pay.

    • Marim January 25, 2021 (11:49 pm)

      Right on. 

  • Pessoa January 25, 2021 (8:10 pm)

    Congrats.  But states and local governments have designated winners and losers during this pandemic, often arbitrarily.   This pandemic has reinforced the terrible inequity that exists in society, and also exposed the cruelty of self-described “enlightened” people,  who are often only slightly inconvenienced,  lecture those who are suffering about “bucking up.” No, sorry, we’re not all in this together – at least not equally.   Those are silly platitudes for children.   

  • Millie January 25, 2021 (8:28 pm)

    Firstly, I am not opposed to the $4.00 hazard pay.   On the other hand, I’m not sure how this additional $4/hour protects a grocery store employee, or any other essential employee,  from being exposed and becoming asymptomatic or ill.  We put too much emphasis on the money aspect and not enough on following CDC guidelines.Lastly, I really would prefer the Council members pay more attention to their mandated responsibilities  as elected officials.

    • Pondering January 26, 2021 (4:59 pm)

      I wondered the same thing. How is an extra $4 an hour going to keep them from getting COVID? I would think the employer spending money to make the environment safer would be better for employees and customers and keep the infection rate down.

    • Mellow Kitty January 26, 2021 (6:05 pm)

      To follow your logic, we should eliminate hazard pay for all jobs. You know, because it doesn’t increase safety. Sorry people who drive fuel trucks, hazmat teams and anyone else, Millie says hazard pay is unnecessary. Just keep working in hazardous jobs for minimum wage, and take precautions. It’s fine. 

  • D. E. January 25, 2021 (8:30 pm)

    When I see a grocery workers at Trader Joes getting cussed out because they have to ask us to mask up- I am glad they get some hazard pay. When I hear about the level of rudeness from customers towards my friends at PCC because workers have been told to count how many are in the store- I am glad they get hazard pay. When I watch anti-masker temper tantrums and racial slurs directed at some of the clerks at Uwajimaya – I am glad they get some hazard pay. People are angry about lock downs, TP rations, masking up, virus fears and they have been taking their anger out on the lowest paid workers in our city. I am glad grocery workers get hazard pay. 

  • Mj January 25, 2021 (10:07 pm)

    I reviewed the outbreak day posted by the WSB.  It lacks a key element, rate data.  There are 1,000’s of grocery stores thus they do show up as having incidents, but when you factor in the other variable’s I’m not clear of the hazard pay justification?

    • comprendo January 26, 2021 (12:00 am)

      Some thoughts…

      -the environment itself is of higher risk

      -high exposure to the public (many more customers in a grocery store during a work shift than enter most other customer-facing businesses)

      -higher exposure to surfaces/spaces/time and length of exposures

      -grocery stores are high up on the essential list (we don’t need to go to restaurants for example but we do need basic groceries)

      -grocery workforce tends to be a lower income population with a high percentage of minorities and poc (who are already at a disadvantage because of the many years of issues around racism and inequity and opportunity) – so the need is also here

      For a moment I thought that public transit workers should also receive hazard pay, but then remembered they are paid quite well, so the need might not be as great there currently.

      I also considered restaurant workers, however their work environment wouldn’t seem as risky as a grocery store regarding the amount of exposure to the public, with current guidelines and restrictions.

      Furthermore, just because this initiative has been passed for this particular group of workers, does not mean all others currently out there working aren’t appreciated and also at risk… absolutely everyone working outside their home right now is at some risk.
      However, this particular industry has been identified as particularly at high risk, being hit really hard by these pandemic times, and of high need for this support.

      Ask yourself this, do you want grocery store workers to continue to work in these harder and riskier jobs, so you can go the store at your convenience and procure needed groceries? If yes, it probably makes sense to support this bill.

  • ProUnion January 26, 2021 (9:18 am)

    These are issues where once strong unions handled hazard pay thus avoiding all of these arguments emerging (rightfully) about government intervention and who is deemed to receive it.  

  • skeeter January 26, 2021 (4:01 pm)

    I wonder why only grocery store workers?  You’d think we would want similar treatment for any worker who is exposed to the public – Home Depot, Target, McDonald’s, Starbucks, etc.

    • Mellow Kitty January 26, 2021 (6:16 pm)

      Because they fought for it. They’re not being “handed” anything. They worked with the union, they talked to corporate, they held picket lines. This has been months in the making for the grocery store workers. If customers would follow social distance and mask rules, not bring the entire family to the store (I see it all the time as a shopper) maybe the grocery store workers wouldn’t feel the need to request hazard pay. Think of someone other than yourselves for once! The world does revolve around “Karen.” 

  • Thomas February 2, 2021 (11:58 pm)

    I am curious why would retail workers not get the same $4 hazard pay per hour and are not included.  We go to work everyday just as grocery workers do and take the same risk.  

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