The King County Metropolitan Council will vote during its next meeting on whether to grant hazard pay to grocery store workers employed by large stores in unincorporated King County.
The ordinance would increase the pay of some grocery store workers by $4 an hour until the pandemic ends. Seattle and Burien have already passed similar ordinances, along with other cities around the country. The council’s Committee of the Whole, which is comprised of the county council members, recommended they pass the ordinance at their meeting next week with a 5-2 vote.
Essential workers have often been required to show up to work over the past year, even as many other workers were allowed to work from home. According to a study from Harvard University, grocery store workers who interact with customers may be five times more likely to contract COVID-19 than their coworkers who do not have to interact with the public, Safety and Health Magazine wrote.
A Safeway employee, who works at a store in White Center, gave comment at the committee meeting. She described how before the pandemic, she lived with her elderly mother to care for her. Due to her job, she had to move out to protect her mother.
“My anxiety has come to a peak, and I have been having to see the doctor more this year,” she said.
United Food and Commercial Workers 21 also voiced its support of the ordinance.
Several grocery stores could be required to provide hazard pay to their employees. The affected businesses would need to have at least 500 employees worldwide, along with at least 10,000 square feet of space, or more than 85,000 square feet with at least one-third of it dedicated to retail grocery sales.
Amendments were adopted to exempt the Skyway Grocery Outlet, which is independently operated, and its closure would create a food desert, where groceries are not easily accessible.