King County approves grocery worker pandemic pay

The Associated Press

SEATTLE — The King County Council has approved $4-per-hour pay raises for grocery workers in unincorporated areas of the county during the coronavirus pandemic.

The council voted 8-1 to pass the measure on Tuesday with only council member Reagan Dunn voting in opposition.

The legislation takes effect March 22 and will affect up to 10 stores.

It will remain in place until the COVID-19 emergency declared by King County Executive Dow Constantine ends. Independently owned stores in areas that are historically underserved will be exempt.

“For the last year, I have visited with and thanked the checkers, stockers, butchers and deli workers at the grocery stores I shop. I have seen and heard their fatigue, and also their courage and dedication to their customers,” said council member Rod Dembowski, who drafted the legislation. “These extraordinary times call for governments like King County to respond with extraordinary help.”

Dunn said grocery workers are essential, but he didn’t think it was the county’s place to tell companies how much they should pay their workers, KING-TV reported.

Similar pay-raise laws have passed in Seattle and Burien. Several California cities, including Berkeley, have passed similar legislation in recent months.

In response to Seattle’s legislation, Trader Joe’s raised pay, temporarily, for all its employees nationwide, while also canceling a much-smaller scheduled midyear raise.

Kroger closed two California stores in response to similar legislation there.

Two grocery industry trade groups have since filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle.

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