Two Northwest Grocery Trade Groups are suing Seattle over the city’s new law requiring grocery stores to raise wages by $ 4 an hour.
The lawsuit, filed in Seattle’s US District Court on Wednesday, alleges that city law disrupts the bargaining process between grocery stores and unions, and also “selects winners and losers” by singling out large food companies.
The Seattle law passed last week went into effect Wednesday. The Northwest Grocery Association and the Washington Food Industry Association (WFIA) filed their lawsuit on the same day.
“Unfortunately, the council’s unprecedented regulation, its unilateral approach and unwillingness to work with the food industry have left us no choice but to file a lawsuit against the city,” said Tammie Hetrick, President and CEO of the WFIA, in a prepared Explanation explanation.
The law applies to large grocery stores with more than 500 employees worldwide and stores larger than 10,000 square feet in Seattle. It provides a $ 4 hourly pay increase for all workers in retail locations. And that raise must remain in effect as long as Seattle is in a declared civil emergency.
The lawsuit alleges that the new law is “invalid and unconstitutional” for two reasons. First, it is said, it is prevented by the federal law on collective bargaining and labor practices. Second, the lawsuit states that the law violates the equality clauses of the US and Washington constitutions by treating large grocers differently “without providing a reasonable justification for excluding other employers or frontline retail workers.”
“The ordinance is arbitrarily and inappropriately aimed at grocery stores in Seattle for unequal treatment without requiring the same obligations from similarly located companies or granting benefits to similarly located employees,” the lawsuit said.
Dan Nolte, a spokesman for Seattle District Attorney Pete Holmes, said, “We will absolutely defend the city’s right to receive vital food workers in order to receive the hazard payment they rightly deserve.”
Several cities in California, including Long Beach and Berkeley, have passed similar laws in the past few weeks.
The lawsuit is directed at the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, which campaigned for the law. The law was passed unanimously last week, less than a week after the law was introduced, and went into effect almost immediately.
“[The union] has sponsored this regulation, ”the lawsuit states. “The ordinance sets bonus standards that, by their intent or consistency, enable the UFCW or other collective bargaining units to secure a wage rate that they could not otherwise have received from an employer in a unionized or non-union grocery store.”
Anna Minard, a spokeswoman for UFCW Local 21, said they were confident the mandate was legal.
“We see this kind of employer pushback every time we pass labor rights legislation, but it is particularly unfortunate that these food employers are making such great efforts in the midst of a pandemic to avoid paying workers,” Minard said.
In response to Seattle legislation, Trader Joe temporarily increased pay for all of his employees across the country while canceling a much smaller planned increase mid-year. Kroger closed two California stores in response to similar laws.