BY EMILY MIBACH
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.