Councilmember Dunn: Grocery hazard pay is the ‘direct fist of government’

Mar 8, 2021, 2:03 PM | Updated: 3:34 pm
Grocery worker hazard pay...
Port Angeles could be the next battleground for grocery worker hazard pay ordinances. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

The cities of Seattle and Burien have enacted hazard pay ordinances, requiring larger grocery stores to pay their employees more per hour, citing an increased risk of COVID exposure as the reasoning. It appears as though the King County Council is leaning in this direction as well for unincorporated King County.

“My view is that it should be the free market that decides this stuff, and I continue to be very concerned about this,” King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “It’s not even an invisible hand of government anymore. It’s the direct fist of government saying the private sector shall do X, Y, and Z.”

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“We’ve seen this with things like passing rent directly onto the backs of landlords. … We’re seeing it now where the government is forcing these small — relatively small, some of them — stores in unincorporated King County to pay hazard pay, when you know they’re going to take care of their employees the way that they need to take care of them,” he said.

Dunn says a better approach, if this approach is going to be taken, would be a direct subsidy to the grocery workers.

“If we really are going to influence the market, I’d rather just have the county do a direct subsidy to the grocery worker,” he said. “That would make more sense, as opposed to potentially wiping out a grocery store because of all the added employee costs — that’s a key service to the community.”

As Jason asked, does Dunn think there’s union influence behind this?

“Absolutely. And here’s the thing: It’s designed to raise that pay,” he said. “And then when the wave of the pandemic washes back out to sea, it will still remain the high water mark. In other words, they’re going to continue to keep this $4 pay in there, just like what they’re doing right now in homelessness.”

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“They’re forcing Seattle’s failed homeless policies on the suburbs by putting homeless people into hotels in the suburbs outside of Seattle,” he explained. “It’s a terrible way to handle things, and it makes for bad policy.”

Legislation that would add a $4-an-hour hazard pay for grocery workers in unincorporated King County could be approved by the full council at its Tuesday meeting.

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Councilmember Dunn: Grocery hazard pay is the ‘direct fist of government’