In a 4-3 vote, the Pierce County Council adopted an ordinance that would require grocery businesses located in unincorporated Pierce County to pay their workers an additional $4/hour in hazard pay through the duration of the governor’s declared COVID-19 emergency.
“Today grocery workers in Pierce County got the respect they deserve,” said Councilmember Ryan Mello who co-sponsored the legislation with Councilmember Jani Hitchen. “For more than a year these workers faced – and continue to face – unprecedented danger by showing up to work every day. Requiring their employers fairly compensate them for their sacrifices is the least we can do.”
Under the ordinance, a grocery business is defined as a retail store over 10,000 square feet in size that is primarily engaged in the sale of groceries, or over 85,000 square feet in size with 10,000 square feet or more of its sales floor area dedicated to the retail sale of groceries. Additionally, a grocery business that employs at least one employee who works in Pierce County and operates a grocery store with 500 or more employees worldwide, is required to pay the additional $4/hour hazard wages during an employee shift.
Convenience stores, food marts, farmers’ markets and farm stands are not included. The ordinance applies only to stores located in unincorporated Pierce County.
“These workers have been on the frontlines for the last year and it has not been easy,” said Councilmember Hitchen. “While the proposed additional pay won’t make their jobs easier, it provides much-needed compensation for the hazards of working while facing significant exposure to COVID-19.”
With Council approval, the ordinance now goes to the Pierce County Executive for action. Under the Pierce County Charter, the Executive has 10 days to act on the ordinance. Possible actions include:
- Sign the ordinance, in which case it goes into effect May 31, 2021;
- Veto the ordinance and send it back to Council with stated objections; or
- Take no action, in which case it becomes law effective May 31, 2021 without the Executive’s signature.
If the Executive vetoes the ordinance, Council has 30 days to act. A two-thirds Council vote is required to override an Executive veto.