Burien joins Seattle in enacting hazard pay for grocery store workers
Burien became the latest city to enact a citywide grocery store hazard pay ordinance this week, with its city council voting to give grocery workers an extra $5 an hour.
Mayor Jimmy Matta announced the passing of the ordinance during a special meeting Monday night. It will take effect beginning on Friday, Feb. 17, and apply to all Burien grocery stores with 250 or more employees.
Seattle recently passed its own grocery store worker hazard pay measure, giving an extra $4 an hour to all stores with more than 500 employees.
Proponents of the measure have pointed to the need to compensate employees working on the front lines of the pandemic who have yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Seattle’s hazard pay ordinance also led to Trader Joe’s opting to enact an extra $4 an hour nationwide, with the company saying that it would be “unfair for all stores” across the United States to have just one city’s workers benefit from the added pay.
But Washington Food Industry Association (WFIA) CEO Tammie Hetrick tells KTTH’s Jason Rantz the extra pay will negatively impact independent grocers. She says a store with 21 employees will have to pay close to $20,000 a month more in wages, an added cost that could prove difficult to afford.
Grocery associations like the WFIA also say the ordinance does not consider existing union agreements, and that it is unfair to other essential workers in Seattle who are not getting extra pay.
“It’s a huge concern,” Hetrick said.
The WFIA filed a lawsuit last week, asking a U.S. District Court to declare Seattle’s hazard pay ordinance void, and to grant an injunction against any enforcement of the measure.
The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.