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QFC rep: Seattle hazard pay ‘not sustainable’ with stores on thin margins

(MyNorthwest photo)

The Seattle City Council mandated a “hazard pay” amounting to $4 extra per hour for all grocery store workers at the biggest stores in the city. QFC recently announced that two of its locations in the Seattle area are closing their doors permanently, and blamed the additional hazard pay.

QFC is specifically citing the mandate as hastening the decision to close two stores, at a time when many local grocery stores were already struggling during the pandemic.

“These two stores have been struggling financially for a while now. And really, this decision by the Seattle City Council just kind of pushed us over the edge where it made it impossible for us to run a financially sustainable business there,” Tiffany Sanders of QFC Corporate Affairs told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

QFC to close two Seattle locations, blames city’s grocery worker hazard pay ordinance

“We still have 13 other stores that will be open and running in Seattle that are doing well. But unfortunately, it’s a sad day because these two stores were struggling and now it’s just made it virtually impossible to keep them open,” she added.

As Jason suggested, activists might argue that QFC was always going to close down these two QFCs and is simply exploiting it because they don’t want to pay the hazard pay for all the other Seattle-based locations. What would be the response to that criticism?

“Well, I’ll tell you that this is not an easy decision,” Sanders said. “It’s devastating, and these stores have been mainstays in these communities, and we recognize that people and families have chosen to shop at these stores. And sadly, the pandemic has not been easy. I know that people think the grocery industry is just raking in the money. But I’ll tell you that any money we’re making, we’re putting right back into those stores to keep them safe and clean, and make sure that we’re taking care of our associates and our customers.”

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“Within hours back in March when the pandemic hit, we had people out installing plexiglass barriers at every single register at the pharmacy and the cashier lanes, … we advocated to locate PPE when it was so hard to find and to make sure that every single associate had a clean, fresh, brand new mask and gloves to wear at the start of every single shift,” she said. “We’ve really increased significant investments into our associates through extra pay and benefits, and all kinds of premium pay and bonuses over the past 11 months.”

Sanders says operating costs were already stretched thin, and the hazard pay increase simply pushed it over the edge for these locations.

“It has gotten really expensive to do business in Seattle. Anyone that knows the grocery business, they know that grocery stores operate on a razor thin margin. It is touch and go all the time for big and little stores,” she said.

“And, really, a 22% operating increase — that’s what this is from the Seattle City Council — all of our Seattle stores, it’s going to increase our operating costs 22%. It’s just not sustainable.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here

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