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Hazard pay to continue for grocery workers in Seattle

Former Mayor Jenny Durkan vetoed a bill before leaving office that would have ended the additional $4 an hour for some workers.

SEATTLE — Hazard pay for many grocery workers will continue in Seattle after the city council declined to override a mayoral veto Tuesday.

Former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan vetoed a council-approved bill in December that would have ended the pandemic-related pay requirements in January. The council had the chance to override that veto but chose not to.

Mayor Bruce Harrell will monitor pandemic conditions and, over the next several weeks, work with the council and stakeholders to determine an appropriate end date for the hazard pay ordinance, according to a statement from his office.

Grocery businesses with at least 500 employees must continue to pay frontline workers an additional $4 an hour.

Before leaving office, Durkan cited the COVID-19 omicron variant as the primary reason for leaving the additional pay in place.

"The significant surge of COVID-19 globally and nationally, fueled by the Omicron variant, has already caused universities to close, global cities to shut down and health care system to become very stressed," Durkan wrote to City Clerk Monica Martinez Simmons. "When organized labor and the grocery stores worked with City Council to eliminate hazard pay, they could not foresee the coming and rapid rise of Omicron that has taken hold today. I had similar concerns about lifting this bill this past summer during the rise of the Delta variant, and requested that Council not roll back this important benefit for some of our critical frontline workers."

At the height of the pandemic, the city of Seattle enacted an ordinance requiring grocery businesses to provide employees with an additional $4 an hour. The additional pay was intended to compensate grocery employees for the risks of working on the frontlines and improve their financial stability to stay safe and encourage them to continue working.

Hazard pay has been criticized by the Northwest Grocery Association and Washington Good Industry Association. The associations previously filed a lawsuit seeking to end it.