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Hazard pay kicks in for Seattle grocery workers, Burien eyes similar measure

Burien City Council could move forward with an ordinance to give an additional $5 an hour in hazard pay to grocery workers.

BURIEN, Wash. — Many Seattle grocery workers began earning an extra $4 an hour Wednesday as part of a recently passed hazard pay ordinance.

UFCW 21, the union representing grocery workers, has been fighting for hazard pay for its members.

Seattle City Council voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance during a council meeting on January 25. 

The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber called the Seattle ordinance rushed.

"Acting with urgency should not include incomplete outreach to those who will be impacted and a complete departure from Seattle’s established legislative process,” Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Alicia Teel said in a statement. “Employers need time to adjust their systems; instead they will be scrambling to ensure they are in compliance.”

Seattle grocery workers at stores that employ more than 500 people worldwide will receive an additional $4 an hour in hazard pay for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. However, Seattle City Council may reconsider the legislation at the four-month mark.

RELATED: Trader Joe's goes nationwide with Seattle $4 hourly grocery hazard pay

"From the people who don't wear their masks to the folks who get too close, there are a lot of extra dangers that grocery store workers are faced with," UFCW 21 Executive Board Member Maggie Breshears said.

Breshears is a grocery worker at Fred Meyer but is currently on leave because of the pandemic. She said she would interact with upwards of 900 people a week when she worked the checkout lines and believes there are daily issues with customers and masks.

The union wants the ordinance to expand beyond Seattle and helped introduce legislation in Burien. The Burien City Council discussed moving forward with its own hazard pay ordinance Monday night.

The Burien ordinance is currently being drafted, but UFCW 21 said it would include $5 an hour in hazard pay and would look similar to the Seattle ordinance. The council is set to meet Monday to discuss how it wants to move forward.

Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce President Andrea Reays said the chamber voiced concerns at the City Council meeting. She wishes the city would collaborate with the businesses and added that the chamber has not seen a copy of the legislation, which has led to confusion among Burien businesses.

"We can move quickly and be inclusive,” said Reay. "We can support workers and support business. Not mutually exclusive ideas, constantly being pitted against each other.”

A meeting on Monday, Feb. 8 will decide when the Burien ordinance goes into effect. Reay said it could be as soon as next week.

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