As pandemic winds down, city requires stores to give workers $5-an-hour ‘hazard pay’

Daily Post Staff Writer

The Redwood City Council voted to require chain grocery stores and pharmacies to pay an extra $5-and-hour “hazard pay” because of the Covid pandemic, which began a year ago.

The ordinance was approved unanimously on Monday by the council members in attendance — Diane Howard, Giselle Hale, Alicia Aguirre, Lissette Espinoza-Garnica, Jeff Gee and Diana Reddy. Michael Smith was absent. The ordinance, which began immediately after council’s vote, will expire on July 11. The ordinance was suggested by Espinoza-Garnica.

The city had previously received a letter from an attorney representing the California Grocers Association saying that the hazard pay ordinance is unconstitutional because the city “improperly inserts itself into the middle of the collective bargaining process.”

The grocer’s association has sued Daly City, Oakland, San Jose and San Leandro over similar hazard pay requirements. However, a lawsuit in Seattle was dismissed. In Long Beach, a federal judge denied the association’s request for a preliminary injunction against the implementation of hazard pay.

The ordinance will apply to Costco, CVS, Grocery Outlet, Lucky’s, Nob Hill, Rite Aid, Safeway, Smart & Final, Target and Whole Foods. Delucchi’s and Chavez Supermarkets have fewer than 750 employees, so they will not have to provide the extra $5-an-hour to employees.

As part of the ordinance, businesses that provide for example a $2 hazard pay already, will only have to increase pay by $3, Voung wrote.

Espinoza-Garnica and Reddy suggested the idea of reducing the amount of employees nationwide to 500. That would have forced Chavez Supermarkets to pay hazard pay.

But Gee said he was not comfortable with reducing the number of employees. The ordinance needed five votes in order to pass, and with at least one council member rescinding support for the ordinance, Reddy and Espinoza-Garnica dropped their bid to lower the threshold, agreeing that ultimately it is more important to have the hazard pay apply to at least some workers.

The San Mateo County Labor Council reminded the council that a city survey found that 67% of workers and residents supported hazard pay. But the survey also found that respondents felt hazard pay would have been more appropriate if it had started last year.

During Monday’s council meeting, residents and others weighed in on the ordinance, with 13 people calling into the council’s Zoom meeting. Of the 13, 10 were in favor and three were against.

Resident Rona Gundrum said while she is “eternally grateful” to grocery workers, she is worried about the potential lawsuit, and said there are better things the city can spend money on than on attorneys fees.

“I know everyone’s hearts are in the right place,” she said. “But this has the possibility for extreme negative consequences.”

Resident Barbara Valley said she is against the ordinance because it only applies to pharmacy and grocery workers.

But some of those who spoke in favor of the ordinance, including Ian W, said the council should pass the ordinance and perhaps even expand it.

Resident Clara Jackal called for the council to approve the ordinance and noted that being eligible for the vaccine does not mean an appointment is available.

“It’s not over,” Jackal said, referring to the pandemic. “It would have been better to do this earlier, but still worth it to pass it now.”

Correction: A survey on hazard pay was conducted by the city and mentioned by the San Mateo County Labor Council. An earlier version said it was the labor council’s survey.


  1. I hope that all the affected businesses move out of town so that the residents are inconvenienced. Government has NO authority to make such a dictate to businesses. Ignore it or move out.

    • Government already sets the wages with the minimum wage. It used to be a national standard, and then the state of California found a loophole that allows cities to set minimum wages. The point of the minimum wage is to close down small businesses, the mom-and-pops. The big corporations like Walmart and Safeway can afford to pay higher wages if it serves the purpose of ruining the smaller stores. City council members go along because they need union support in the next election. If local businesses close, they don’t care. They hate local business owners because they’re usually conservative. So council members are fine with small businesses closing.

  2. Once again, Redwood City is enjoying being generous with other people’s money. They get political benefits and get to feel smug about their supposed generousity, and it doesn’t personally cost them a cent!

  3. Correction – the referenced survey was conducted by the City, not the Labor Council. We merely cited the results in public comment.

  4. I work at a business that will be affected by this. People listen up, we already received raises last year for the Corona virus. In my case it came to $200 extra per week. My employer was very generous and recognized the risks we were facing. (Only one person at our store got sick and I’m pretty sure he got it at a party. I don’t know where they got that statistic of 1 in 5 retail workers came down with the Corona virus.) I’m worried that our store will have to close due to this additional burden from the city council. The council should have talked to us workers first. Not the Commercial Workers Union, which is despised by everyone here.

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