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$4-per-hour pandemic hazard pay for grocery workers approved by King County Council

Summary

The King County Council on Tuesday approved a proposal that adds a $4-per-hour hazard pay for employees at large grocery stores in unincorporated King County.

Story

Many grocery workers in unincorporated King County will be getting a pay increase for the duration of the pandemic emergency, thanks to legislation approved Tuesday by the King County Council.

The Council approved a proposal that adds a $4-per-hour hazard pay for employees at large grocery stores in unincorporated King County. In the final version, independently owned stores in areas historically underserved would be exempt.

“For the last year I have visited with, and thanked the checkers, stockers, butchers and deli workers at the grocery stores I shop. I have seen and heard their fatigue, and also their courage and dedication to their customers,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski, who drafted the legislation. “These extraordinary times call for governments like King County to respond with extraordinary help. I am proud to stand with these frontline workers and ensure that the risks they and their families are taking, and the dedication they are showing, is reflected in our laws, and in their paychecks. Four dollars an hour is a small price to pay to ensure the continued service they are providing to our communities.” 

The legislation would require the pay until the COVID-19 emergency declared by Executive Dow Constantine ends.

“This pandemic has clearly demonstrated that frontline workers — including but not only grocery workers — are absolutely crucial in our community,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who supported the measure. “They are taking risks every day by working at our most essential businesses, and it’s time that their importance is reflected in their wages — especially at big box retailers. Implementing this hazard pay for grocery workers is an important start. I appreciate Councilmember Dembowski and Upthegrove’s leadership on this and stand solidly alongside these workers in my support of this ordinance.”

King County Executive Dow Constantine expressed his support for the legislation.

“The pandemic economy has worsened inequities for workers and communities,” Constantine said. “While small businesses and governments are stretched thin providing basic and essential services, many large grocery chains are seeing record profits. And while that’s good for them, it’s fair that they share with the frontline workers who show up every day to help keep our communities fed and our economy moving.”

Grocery workers and their unions applauded the measure.

“We are grateful to Councilmember Rod Dembowski, Executive Dow Constantine, and the King County Council for an overwhelmingly strong vote in support of grocery workers in unincorporated King County,” said Sarah Cherin, Executive Vice President of UFCW 21. “This will go a long way in showing our essential grocery workers just how essential they are.”

The cities of Seattle and Burien have recently approved and implemented similar measures, and other local governments have taken similar steps to ensure frontline grocery workers are paid for the risk they undertake in their daily work.

The legislation will take effect on March 22.

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