About a week after Seattle passed law requiring some grocery store employees to be paid for danger, Trader Joe’s announced that employees across the country would be paid an additional $ 4 an hour during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a message on its website, the grocery store, which had been paying hourly staff an additional $ 2 an hour as a thank you throughout the pandemic, said it would cost up to $ 4 an hour.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Trader Joe’s has given all hourly crew members an additional thank you pay of $ 2 an hour in recognition of the outstanding, inspiring work they do in our stores and communities every day,” the company said. “Effective February 1, 2021, the thank you bonus for all hourly crew members without management has been increased by two dollars to a total of four dollars per hour.”
In a letter management wrote to employees, the company, as reported by the Seattle Times, cited the latest hazard payment regulations in Seattle and cities across California in its decision to increase its own additional compensation for employees.
“Recently, select city or county governments passed various ordinances requiring food companies to pay a premium to ‘food workers’ for the next several months. These premiums are typically $ 4 more than the usual hourly rate for those who are absent are management, “the letter said.
“After seeing this in a couple of cities in California and Washington, we have determined that such measures are unfair for all business across the company. Accordingly, starting February 1st, we’re going to increase our thank you for all crew members by two dollars, which equates to that “Thank you” company-wide US $ 4. “
The company said the additional pay would continue during the pandemic or until grocery store workers could get their vaccinations. In Washington, high-risk critical workers who work in certain convention environments who are 50 years or older can receive the vaccine in Stage 1B stage two. Highly risk-critical employees under the age of 50 are only eligible in the fourth stage of phase 1B. The state is now in the first stage of phase 1B. The state is still not meeting its goal of vaccinating 45,000 people a day, which means it may take time before all grocery store employees are eligible to receive the vaccine.
Although Trader Joe’s is temporarily raising wages for workers, the company said there would be no mid-year pay hikes for employees this year and the additional wages would not increase beyond $ 4 an hour. Should other cities pass laws that go beyond the $ 4 an hour additional wage or extend the timing of the additional wage, the company said it must comply with the regulations but “must take steps to address this potential economic situation.” . “
The company’s move to increase dangerous wages across the country comes about a week after Seattle City Council passed legislation requiring grocery stores that employ 500 or more people worldwide to pay $ 4 an hour for dangerous wages .
Many grocery stores had offered hazard payment at the start of the pandemic, but most had stopped taking advantage by the summer – even as the number of coronavirus cases continued to rise and workers said their jobs didn’t feel any less dangerous.
UFCW 21, the union that represents food workers in the area, said it had struggled for months to restore the hazard payment but had not been successful. The union cited the profits grocery stores made during the pandemic in their calls for additional wages for workers. Grocery store staff during the pandemic have stated that stores do not have enough staff to enforce improved cleaning and sanitation protocols. You have raised concerns about a lack of mask-wearing enforcement and social distancing.
Seattle joined several other cities across California that had passed or were considering charging a risk payment for grocery stores.
Since Seattle passed its Hazard Pay regulation, other grocery stores have spoken out against the legislation. PCC Community Markets sent a letter to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office warning of the negative impact the bill would have on the business and asking the Mayor to reconsider.
The company said independent grocers have low profit margins.
“Large grocers may have a decent profit margin, but most independent grocers have less than 0.5% profit margin according to the Washington Food Industry Association,” the letter said.
“The cost of responding to COVID, including the security checks we signed up to to keep our employees safe and the extra pay, got our margins on point … unlike large grocers who do We were unable to sustainably increase sales nationwide and have no national footprint that we can rely on to offset these costs or the costs of doing business in Seattle. “
In the letter, PCC said grocery stores are safe workplaces and that independent grocers have taken steps to ensure employee safety, including implementing mask mandates, cleaning protocols and increased air filtration. The business also called for a focus on vaccinating employees.
The city announced last week that Seattle’s Hazard Pay Regulation would go into effect on Wednesday.