Durkan vetoes repeal of “hazard pay” for grocery workers (UPDATED)

This morning Mayor Durkan announced that she will veto the City Council’s repeal of the $4 per hour “hazard pay” mandate for grocery workers that the Council passed early this year.

The Council passed the repeal last week, which would have been effective approximately mid-February: 30 days after the bill’s effective date (which in turn would be 30 days after the Mayor’s signature).

In a press release this morning, Durkan said:

“Now is not the time to roll back the pay for these critical front-line workers.  These last two years in the pandemic have taken a toll on every person, family, and business in our city, but at every turn Seattle has risen to the challenge by taking steps to protect each other, even when it was hard.  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. These extraordinary times have required unprecedented actions: from closed businesses and schools, to one of the first in the country eviction moratoriums, small business and rent relief, masks  mandates, vaccine requirements for businesses and city employees – none of these decisions are easy but they are right for workers and residents,” said Mayor Durkan.  “This summer, I asked 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.”  

The bill now will go back to the City Council for a potential override, though given the dramatic surge in omicron-variant COVID cases, the Council may choose instead to simply let the mandate remain in place for now.

UPDATE: Councilmember Mosqueda, who sponsored the bill repealing the hazard pay mandate, has released a statement on Mayor Durkan’s veto, indicating that she will not try to override the veto:

“I am proud to have passed and led the first in the state Hazard Pay for Grocery workers in Seattle, and proud to have extended the Hazard Pay three times as data on COVID evolved. Working with UFCW 21 earlier this year, we were able to ensure that grocery store employees received temporary hazard pay as compensation for the work they have done and continue to do on the frontlines of our pandemic. While other cities repealed their hazard pay mandates after 120 days, Seattle has kept ours in place three times longer than anywhere else in the nation, noting that if data changed so would the policy.  

In the last week, the emergence, prevalence and severity of COVID has increased due to the Omicron variant. We have also received new public health guidance and advice, evolving as late as last Friday. We are now seeing the effects the Omicron variant will have on our population’s health and the elevated risk grocery store workers will face in the months ahead. It’s with these new developments that hazard pay will remain in place.” 


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