Council ends hazard pay for grocery workers

This is despite opposition saying workers remain at risk for COVID-19

Council ends hazard pay for grocery workers

The Seattle City Council has voted to end the hazard pay for grocery workers in the city, despite opposition that workers remain at risk due to the ongoing transmission of COVID-19.

In Seattle, large grocery businesses were ordered in 2021 to pay their grocery workers hazard pay of $4 per hour of work performed during the COVID-19 emergency.  The order aimed to compensate grocery employees while they work amid an ongoing pandemic. It also seeks to improve their financial ability to access resources to stay safe and encourage them to continue working.

But in a vote on Council Bill 120372 on Tuesday, five Seattle City councilmembers has approved the legislation transmitted by the Mayor's office to end grocery worker hazard pay.

A statement from Communications Director Jamie Housen from the Mayor's Office previously said that while grocery workers were a specific class to receive hazard pay due to the necessity of access to stores, the benefit was "never intended to be long term or a substitute for living wages and workplace protections."

Read more: US senator calls for hazard pay for frontliners

Two councilmembers, Tammy Morales and Kshama Sawant, voted against the end of hazard pay, with Morales defending that grocery workers remain at risk for COVID-19.

"Once again, we are at a high-transmission rate for COVID in King County, and grocery workers are still at risk for exposure along with too many of our frontline workers," said Morales in a statement.

The hazard pay requirement will end 30 days after the bill is signed by the mayor, which Seattle Times said will likely be in early September.

This was not the first time that a legislation ending hazard pay for grocery workers was debated on in Seattle. Prior to CB 120372, the council considered in 2021 the CB 120119 that would have also ended hazard pay.

It was passed by the council in December but was vetoed by then-Mayor Jenny Durkan due to the emergency of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. The council eventually voted to uphold the veto by the mayor, extending hazard pay for grocery workers until it was voted to end this August.

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