In line with a Seattle city ordinance, PCC Community Markets and United Food and Commercial (UFCW) Local 21 have agreed on a temporary $4 per hour wage hike that provides COVID-19 hazard pay.
PCC said late yesterday the pay increase will be issued retroactively from Feb. 3. The Puget Sound-area grocery retail cooperative noted that all of the nearly 1,500 union-represented hourly associates at its 15 stores will receive the extra pay, not just those at its eight Seattle stores subject to a municipal hazard-pay ordinance. The chain has about 700 workers outside the city of Seattle.
UFCW 21 and PCC also reached an accord on launching curbside pickup service “that captures work for union members instead of giving it away to the gig economy,” the Seattle-based union stated. “We also reviewed our continued commitment to discuss new technologies in the stores with the union before implementation.”
The $4 hourly wage increase is slated to remain in effect until Washington state lifts its pandemic emergency order or June 5, whichever comes first.
“We prioritize our staff, and this week was no exception. We appreciate the UFCW Local 21’s partnership and are pleased we could come to terms on our offer to provide hazard pay across the co-op,” PCC Community Markets President and CEO Suzy Monford said in a statement. “The addition of curbside will help the co-op grow and sustain jobs, while also providing a safe, contactless, modernized option for members and shoppers.”
On Jan. 25, the Seattle City Council approved Council Bill 119990, which requires grocery employees in Seattle to receive hazard pay of $4 per hour during the “COVID-19 emergency.” Days later, PCC sent a letter to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan opposing the ordinance, explaining that that it would take a financial toll on the grocer, which already had invested in creating a safe working and shopping environment during the pandemic. The hazard pay ordinance went into effect on Feb. 3, and the next day PCC proposed temporary “appreciation pay” of $4 for all union workers in its market area.
The Northwest Grocery Association (NWGA) and the Washington Food Industry Association (WFIA) also opposed the hazard pay ordinance and on Feb. 3 filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Seattle. NWGA and WFIA argued that the Seattle ordinance is being applied improperly because it only covers some grocery store employees and not other essential businesses and workers in the area. The associations also contend that the law bypasses collective bargaining agreements.
“After intense pressure from workers, shoppers and community through petitions, leaflets, and other actions, we have finally reached an agreement with PCC on providing hazard pay on all stores outside Seattle and Burien [Wash.],” UFCW 21 said in announcing the agreement with PCC on Feb. 10.
“We have a commitment from PCC to bargain over extending this agreement, including hazard pay, at least 30 days before it expires,” the union added. The pact also provides quarantine pay for workers diagnosed with COVID-19, plus other safety provisions.
PCC noted that it also has achieved priority access to COVID-19 vaccines for workers via collaboration with trade associations and other grocers. Starting next week, PCC staff meeting state guidelines will be able to get priority vaccination appointments.
The retailer said it will continue to work with retail partners and government agencies to boost coronavirus vaccine access for all grocery workers. For example, the co-op has signed a letter to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to prioritize access in the Phase 1B vaccination allocation for all food and agricultural essential workers, regardless of age. And to incentivize immunizations, PCC is offering employees a $25 store gift card for getting a COVID vaccine.
PCC added that in 2020 it spent more than $4 million on pandemic-related employee and operating costs, including appreciation pay, bonuses and in-store safety measures such as plexiglass barriers at checkout, store HVAC system upgrades and KN95 face masks for all staff.