‘I am 100% committed’: Mayor Durkan rejects calls to veto grocery store ‘hazard pay’

Feb 2, 2021, 2:37 PM | Updated: Feb 3, 2021, 7:59 am
Lawsuit Hazard pay, grocery stores...
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

After the Seattle City Council approved an extra $4 an hour in “hazard pay” for grocery store workers, PCC Markets called on Mayor Jenny Durkan to veto the legislation. Despite that, Durkan indicated Tuesday that she still intends to sign it into law.

Seattle City Council approves $4 more per hour for grocery workers

“It is past time that the effort and the critical role grocery workers have played in this pandemic be recognized,” Durkan said.

Councilmembers plan to keep the hazard pay in effect at least until grocery store employees are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, which could be as soon as April 2021 according to the state’s roadmap.

PCC Markets CEO Suzy Monford detailed her wish to prevent the extra pay from going into effect in a letter addressed to Mayor Durkan. In it, she cited the company’s “slim profit margin,” while claiming that Washington grocery stores are already safe places to work.

“According to a Washington State Department of Labor and Industries report issued in November 2020, only 5% of all non-health care COVID workplace outbreaks occurred in grocery stores, and grocery stores accounted for less than 2.8% of all workplace outbreaks,” she wrote. “… We hope, given local business concerns, you’ll consider not signing the bill, or alternatively, modify it to exclude the smaller, local grocers who will be deeply damaged by this ordinance.”

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Other larger grocery chains have echoed Monford’s concerns, with Fred Meyer and QFC parent company Kroger closing a pair of Long Beach, Calif., locations in response to the city’s own recently-passed 120-day $4-an-hour pay raise.

Trader Joe’s, though, is going in a different direction in reaction to Seattle’s legislation, instead opting to enact the extra $4 an hour nationwide. In a notice posted to a staff bulletin board at a Seattle location, management stated that it would be “unfair for all stores throughout the company” to have just one city’s workers benefit from the added pay. The company plans to pay for the temporary pay raise by forgoing its regularly scheduled permanent raises in 2021, which typically range between 65 and 75 cents an hour annually.

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‘I am 100% committed’: Mayor Durkan rejects calls to veto grocery store ‘hazard pay’