Federal Way grocery workers are in for a $3-an-hour hazard pay raise following the approval of a Federal Way City Council ordinance on May 4.
The hazard pay ordinance covers workers at chain grocery stores including Safeway, Walmart, WinCo and Kroger-owned Fred Meyer. The ordinance also covers smaller grocers, such as Grocery Outlet, by allowing them to apply for grant money through the American Rescue Plan.
The increased pay goes into effect May 15 and will last 90 days with a review of the program set for July 6. The council will vote Aug. 10 to end or extend the hazard pay.
Initially, the hazard pay ordinance was introduced at $2.50 per hour. Councilmember Greg Baruso proposed a $3-per-hour hazard pay increase, which was passed in a 5-2 vote.
Federal Way City Council members Lydia Assefa-Dawson, Greg Baruso, Leandra Craft, Martin Moore and Hoang Tran voted to support the ordinance. Council President Susan Honda and councilmember Linda Kochmar opposed the hazard pay ordinance.
“I don’t want government mandating, telling businesses what to do,” Kochmar said. Honda also noted concern over a lack of inclusion of other frontline workers, such as retail workers, and a possible lack of outreach to all impacted grocers in the city.
The ordinance requires hazard pay for hourly grocery workers in grocery locations with at least 25% of their floor space dedicated to grocery sales and are at least 2,500 square feet.
Businesses between 2,500 to 10,000 square feet are eligible to apply for a city grant for the reimbursement of hazard pay costs. Grant funds are provided by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
Grocery locations of over 10,000 square feet are not eligible for the reimbursement, which excludes convenience stores. The ordinance also excludes delivery drivers.
Federal Way will not receive the first allocation of ARPA until May 10, but is “quickly working to stand up a grant program for council consideration and approval to help small businesses pay hazard pay,” according to an announcement from the city.
“Since the start of this pandemic, grocery workers have gone to work every day, putting themselves and their families at risk in order to keep our communities fed,” said Chris Navarrette, a cheese monger at Twin Lake Fred Meyer.
Navarrette sparked hazard pay negotiations in Federal Way by bringing the idea to city council. In early April, frontline and essential workers were awarded Keys to the City by Mayor Jim Ferrell. Navarrette accepted the award on behalf of the city’s grocery workers.
Several councils nearby have also implemented hazard pay, including Bellingham, Olympia, Seattle and King County approving $4 per hour extra pay within the recent months. The city of Burien approved an extra $5 per hour in hazard pay for grocery workers in February.
“I think sometimes we need to step in because we have to protect our residents. We have to support our residents,” Assefa-Dawson said. “We have to be there for them when the companies they work for don’t have the foresight to say ‘maybe we need to step up.’”