Seattle City Council cites the increased risk food workers faced during the coronavirus pandemic and is trying to give them a $ 4 an hour raise for the remainder of the pandemic.
The new legislation would require large grocery stores to give retail workers who fall under Seattle’s Minimum Wage Act a raise while the city is in a civil emergency due to the pandemic. Mayor Jenny Durkan declared the pandemic an emergency on March 3 last year. Legislation says the city council intends to reconsider the raise after four months, but that’s not binding.
This would apply to food companies with more than 500 employees worldwide and to stores larger than 10,000 square feet. This would not apply to convenience stores or farmers markets.
The legislation introduced by Councilor Teresa Mosqueda would require a three quarters majority in the Council to come into force immediately. It passed the council’s finance and housing committee 5-0 on Friday, and the entire council was able to pass or reject the regulation as early as Monday.
Mosqueda cited the continued growth of the virus and the slow adoption of the vaccine as reasons to cite the threat, which is paying off almost 11 months after the pandemic began.
“The people, who in many cases work and earn close to the minimum wage, make incredible sacrifices for us every day,” she said. “We have to offer them a risk payment to compensate for the danger they expose themselves to every day.”
It is the city council’s recent effort to raise wages for lower-paid workers, who are often far more exposed to the virus than higher-paid office workers, many of whom have switched to remote working.
Last summer, the city council asked companies like Instacart, DoorDash and Postmates to pay their delivery drivers an additional $ 2.50 per order during the coronavirus emergency. The city has also set how much food delivery services restaurants can charge while eating indoors remains banned. In the fall, the council passed laws ensuring that Uber and Lyft drivers receive the city’s minimum wage of $ 16.39, just like other workers. Uber promptly raised prices and Lyft said it could follow.
In Seattle, all app-based delivery and transport companies had to offer their drivers paid sick days during the pandemic.
The cities of Los Angeles, Berkeley and Long Beach, California passed or approved similar “hazard pay” increases for food workers last month.
The legislation cites research published in the British Medical Journal that food workers in customer service roles were five times more likely than their counterparts to test positive for the virus.
Maggie Breshears, an employee of Fred Meyer and a board member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, said the wage increase was reasonable given the risks workers face.
“I didn’t sign up to sacrifice myself to keep my community going during the worst public health crisis of my life,” Breshears said, “but that’s exactly what I’m doing.”
Tammie Hetrick, president of the Washington Food Industry Association; representing grocers, wholesalers and suppliers; said it was “deeply concerned” about the legislation. She said that legislation “chooses who heroes are by singling out only one industry.”
“Our members take great pride in offering well-paying jobs that offer opportunities to grow and develop within the industry. They also support the communities they serve, ”said Hetrick. “This would have a huge impact on their ability to compete with much larger online businesses that don’t have the increased cost of having a storefront and community presence.”
The proposal is supported by Durkan, who said many grocery stores gave a hazard payment in the early days of the pandemic but then stopped.
“Too many employees have failed to receive this critical payment, which is why cities across the country and Seattle must implement this important proposal,” Durkan said in a prepared statement. “The pandemic has disproportionately affected the lives of certain workers or communities, especially the color communities.”