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Seattle council leaves grocery store hazard pay in place indefinitely

Cashier-less convenience store "Amazon Go" in Seattle, Washington, on Feb. 24, 2020. (Photographer: Chona Kasinger/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Seattle City Council has opted to maintain its $4-an-hour grocery store worker hazard pay indefinitely.

During a Monday council session, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda clarified that the decision to delay voting to lift the hazard pay requirement is necessary because of the ongoing COVID emergency. She stressed that the hazard pay, passed in January of this year, is still temporary.

Seattle City Council delays lifting hazard pay for grocery employees

“We have continued to move to delay the amendment to this requirement because we wanted to make sure that we were looking at the most recent public health data, and we wanted to make sure that we did this in front of the full council to ensure that there was a transparent process to address the continued COVID emergency,” Mosqueda said. “I am still very much committed to ensuring that this is a temporary hazard pay meant to increase compensation for the extra risk that grocery workers take on a daily basis.”

“This bill was narrow,” Mosqueda continued. “This bill was not what overall worker pay was about. Today’s motion to delay the vote indefinitely moves this amendment into a longer period so that we have more time to ensure that we are considering the most recent public health information when we are looking at how we can address the stability of our hospital systems and risk exposure. We will take it up again once we continue to look at public health data and have more stability in the region as it relates to COVID.”

Councilmember Alex Pedersen further clarified that, although the vote to lift the requirement is delayed indefinitely, it would be brought back “eventually.”

“Those grocers who may be concerned about the hazard pay should know that just because the motion is to hold it indefinitely does not mean it won’t come back,” Pedersen said. “It’s just not practical to have it come back every few weeks when we’re in the midst of the delta variant. I’m hearing the concerns of grocers, and I also support what the workers are going through. This will be brought back eventually.”

Councilmember Kshama Sawant made it clear that, from her perspective, there are clear, ideological battle-lines surrounding the decision to delay the vote. She criticized Councilmember Pedersen for his mention of employers in the discussion of the hazard pay.

“I do not agree with Councilmember Pedersen presenting the false arguments of the grocery corporations as equivalent to the problems faced by the grocery workers and the sacrifices they have made, especially during the pandemic,” Sawant said. “I believe that whatever workers have been able to win, in this case hazard pay, should be maintained. As somebody who is an elected representative of workers, I would not be in a position to vote for removing that hazard pay at any time, whether its now or many years from now.”

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