Edmonds grocery store workers may soon earn hazard pay

Some employers are required to increase wages by $4 an hour, the city council voted Tuesday.

EDMONDS — Grocery store workers may soon receive an extra $4 an hour in Edmonds after the city council voted in favor of the pay increase at its Tuesday night meeting.

Edmonds is the first city in Snohomish County to require employers to pay their workers more during the pandemic. Nearby cities such as Seattle have also adopted the practice, known as hazard pay.

The ordinance was approved 4-1-2, with Councilmembers Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, Luke Distelhorst, Laura Johnson and Susan Paine voting for, and Councilmember Vivian Olson voting against. Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis and Kristiana Johnson abstained.

“My number one priority is keeping Edmonds safe and healthy,” Mayor Mike Nelson said in a written statement. “Grocery store employees serve a key role in our community for safe and reliable access to our food. The proposed ordinance is critical to promoting job retention during the pandemic. Grocery workers are on the front line working in a hazardous situation every day.”

The new pay applies to companies with 500 or more employees statewide, with stores over 10,000 square feet or over 85,000 square feet with 30% or more of the sales floor dedicated to groceries.

The ordinance does not apply to convenience stores, food marts or farmers markets, a news release said.

Employers have 30 days to start paying the new wages, council President Paine said.

She said it was right to vote “yes” because grocery workers are around the public all day, including some who may not follow safety guidelines.

“It’s really important to recognize they are doing hazardous work,” she said, “especially now with the variants being so stubborn and infection rates going up.”

Early on in the pandemic, some grocery stores were offering more pay on their own, Economic Development and Community Services Director Patrick Doherty said.

“Most of the hazard pay at grocery stores that existed then has now expired, while the risks to workers still remain,” he said.

That’s one reason the city considered the ordinance now.

The new rule is to be in effect until Gov. Jay Inslee declares Washington is no longer in a state of emergency.

This story was corrected to reflect that council member Laura Johnson voted in favor of the ordinance.

Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; sdavey@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @stephrdavey.

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