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Seattle mayor to veto bill ending hazard pay for grocery workers

Mayor Jenny Durkan cited increasing COVID-19 cases as a reason for vetoing the legislation that would end the additional $4 an hour hazard pay for grocery workers.

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said Wednesday she will veto a bill that would end hazard pay for grocery store workers.

Durkan cited increasing COVID-19 cases as a reason for vetoing the legislation, adding, “now is not the time to roll back the pay for these critical front-line workers.”

Seattle City Council approved Council Bill 120119 last week. The legislation would end the additional $4 an hour in hazard pay for grocery workers in January 2022.

Durkan’s office said there has been a 143% increase in COVID-19 cases over the past week compared to the previous week, and that “Seattle and King County are expected to have the highest one-day case count over the course of the entire pandemic” in the coming week.

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“In a time that there are no good choices, there are decisions we can make to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of our residents, and hazard pay is one of the key city policies that have supported workers who have supported all of us,” Durkan said in a statement Wednesday.

The city of Seattle enacted an ordinance requiring grocery businesses to provide employees with pay for work performed during the COVID-19 pandemic on Feb. 3. 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.

The ordinance, unanimously approved by the Seattle City Council and signed into law by Durkan, requires stores within city limits with at least 500 employees to pay frontline grocery workers an additional $4 an hour in hazard pay.

“This summer, I asked [Seattle City Council] to not lift hazard pay for grocery workers as delta was emerging, and now as omicron is newly emerging, one of my last actions as mayor will be to protect this critical pay for our frontline workers,” said Durkan.

Durkan is expected to formally veto the bill on Dec. 27.

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