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Edmonds passes $4 hazard pay for grocery store workers

Edmonds, Wash., April 12, 2021 – The Edmonds City Council passed Ordinance 4219 instituting a $4 hazard pay for grocery store workers within Edmonds city limits at its April 6 business meeting. The ordinance passed 4-1 with councilwomen Diane Buckshnis and Kristiana Johnson abstaining.

All grocery store workers in public-facing positions regardless of union status will be eligible, like clerks and baggers for hazard pay. Those who work in offices do not qualify while both unionized and non-unionized workers are eligible. The ordinance takes at 12:01 a.m. on May 5, which is 30 days of the date of passing.

This ordinance would require grocery stores that employ 500 or more employees statewide to provide employees with a hazard pay rate of $4 per hour until Governor Jay Inslee has declared an end to the State of Emergency in Washington state.

The ordinance applies only to “grocery businesses” over 10,000 square feet in size primarily engaged in selling groceries for offsite consumption or businesses over 85,000 square feet in size with 30% or more of the sales floor dedicated to the sale of groceries. This ordinance does not apply to convenience stores, food marts, or farmers markets, or grocery businesses outside of the Edmonds city limit.

During the audience comments section, two grocery store workers and a teamster’s union Local 38 official spoke in favor of hazard pay and their perceived need for it.

City council president Susan Paine and Councilwoman Laura Johnson spoke in favor of the ordinance because it addresses the risks that grocery store workers face. They mentioned the daily on-the-job stressors faced like extra cleaning performed.

Councilwoman Fraley Monillas passionately argued that since big corporations have made a lot of money during the pandemic she believes they should share some profits to workers via the $4 hazard pay.

Councilwoman Diane Buckshnis wanted to gain an understanding from City attorney Jeff Taraday of how $4 and not some other rate was determined.

Taraday said hazard pay was justified last year when workers temporarily had it and it is justified now. Because a union already negotiated $4 with a Seattle PCC Community Market, Taraday stated it seemed like a reasonable amount to institute for Edmonds.

Councilwoman Vivian Olson pushed back saying Edmonds legislation won’t affect national corporate policy on hazard pay for employees and warned of its unintended consequences stating that Lynnwood is unlikely to follow Seattle’s lead.

Olson reminded councilmembers of current anti-pandemic profiteering regulation and if Washington corporations are engaging in such activity, “then it would be more appropriately dealt with” by state and local agencies.

Councilwoman Kristiana Johnson wanted to the council to consider a more socially equitable approach by expanding the $4 hourly hazard pay to other industries, such as healthcare.

A Walkable Edmonds Project

All downtown Edmonds business owners who spoke during public comments, including Kate Guthrie, were not in favor of Walkable Mainstreet. Guthrie feels that it’s not necessary and deters older customers because of its lack of close and convenient parking. She is the owner of Glazed and Amazed.

Cline Jewelers owner Andy Cline and Demetris Woodstone Taverna director Pedro Germano both spoke on the survey the city conducted concerning Walkable Edmonds. They argued that it was skewed in favor of Walkable Edmonds and not allowing business owners to oppose the program.

Citizen Tree Board

The City of Edmonds’ Citizen Tree Board gave its annual report. Edmonds is in its 10th Year as a Tree City USA and earned their 5th Growth Award. They plan to continue tagging downtown trees and perhaps expand the program outside the downtown area. The group hopes to create a “Little Library” to educate the community on native trees and plants.

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