Olympia City Council member Dontae Payne said the hazard pay ordinance, which requires large grocery stores in the city to pay workers an additional $4 an hour, is still in effect.
Payne responded to a public comment made by a representative of the Northwest Grocery Association during the city council meeting on Tuesday, May 10.
Holly Chisa, representing the industry group, asked the city council to review the hazard pay ordinance they passed a year ago and took effect on May 1, 2021. She said they are the only industry paying hazard pay.
The ordinance is written so that only large chain grocery stores are obligated to pay the higher wages. Grocers with fewer than 250 employees, or for which groceries are only a “limited line” are not included. For example, it applies to Albertsons and Safeway but not to Target, Walgreens or CVS stores.
“All retail operations are open; restaurants and offices are open. And yet only retail grocery stores, and only a subset of that grocery industry, are required to pay hazard pay,” Chisa told the council members.
The city council passed the ordinance during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Chisa added they are having challenges in entering contracts with their employees.
“We respectfully ask that the council bring together stakeholders and have a work session,” Chisa said, adding they wanted a conversation about whether hazard pay is still suitable. “We look forward to that discussion. And we would be happy to be a part of it,” she said.
Payne said the council members have had discussions with city staff regarding the grocery workers' hazard pay,and that most council members feel that the ordinance should be kept in place.
“We are still in a pandemic. We are still in a state of emergency. The governor has not yet rescinded that. Therefore, we feel that is the justification for maintaining it,” he added.
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