Hazard Pay Mandates Hurt the People and Communities We Serve
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, independent grocery stores have provided safe working and shopping environments for their employees and customers and guaranteed access to fresh food and essential products. WFIA member stores and distributors have invested millions into providing free PPE, installing safety equipment and enforcing the required protocols to protect workers and shoppers alike.
Now, cities and counties are rushing to enact hazard pay mandates without considering the full implications of these proposals on independent grocers and the people and communities we serve. Family-owned convenience stores and neighborhood grocers are already struggling to break even during the pandemic. The added cost impacts on the member grocery stores are significant and will have ripple effects in the communities where they operate.
Impacts on Independent Grocers
- Independent grocers are responsible for creating 20,350 jobs in our state, paying $805.61million in wages annually.
- Independent grocery and convenience stores are at 1% profit margin during “normal times,” some of the lowest of any industry. COVID has made WFIA member profits closer to 0.5%.
- Small grocers that have struggled to break out of a decade of inconsistent growth are now faced with a challenge for survival in the COVID consumer landscape, when consumers prioritize e-commerce and convenience.
- Small, family-run grocers that do not have an online presence or the ability to provide delivery or pick up through their company or a third party are at a competitive disadvantage.
Impacts on Grocery Workers
- Extra pay mandates could force grocers to reduce the number of workers or reduce worker hours to avoid store closures. The mandates hurt the same grocery workers these mandates intend to help.
- Hazard pay won’t keep workers safe; vaccinations will. The WFIA worked closely with the Office of the Governor and Department of Health to ensure grocery workers were prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations. WFIA member stores continue to provide opportunities for employees to get vaccinated if they so choose.
Impacts on Consumers
- Increased costs mean fewer choices and less convenience for consumers. The costs may be passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices, reduced store services and even store closures.
- At least one economic study stated that a $5/hour wage mandate would increase grocery costs for a family of four by $400a year due to higher food costs.
- Cost increases associated with a new grocery wage mandate will disproportionately impact low-income families and communities at a time when many are still struggling to put food on the table and make ends meet.
Impacts on Communities
- Many small grocers are the ONLY source of fresh food and groceries in their communities.
- Grocery stores are the largest retail employer of 16- to 19-year-olds, providing many young people with their first jobs and a work ethic that will follow them for the rest of their lives. These wage mandates could jeopardize jobs for these and other individuals, resulting in limited jobs available in the stores.
- Additional costs may limit grocers’ community donations, including monetary and in-kind donations to nonprofits where they provide food and other essential products to help vulnerable populations.
WFIA Members' Stories
Since the pandemic began, we have given bonuses, provided more time off and paid medical insurance for underemployed staff. We also purchased gift cards at local restaurants and distributed those to employees as a way of thanking them and supporting local businesses. We have also invested more than $1,000 into Plexiglass and floor signage at each of our stores. Each month, we now spend about $300 on hand sanitizer, gloves, and masks for our employees and customers.
- Ali Hayton, President, Mt. Vernon and Point Roberts Marketplace
In 2020, we spent two times as much as our profits in COVID-related expenses. Since June 2020, we provided 1,680 gallons of hand sanitizer from our local vendor, Sun Liquor, and more than 160,000 paper masks to our staff. We have worked closely with the WFIA to ensure grocery workers are prioritized for vaccines and are offering a $25 gift card to every employee that gets vaccinated. We also provided premium pay at the start of the pandemic and are now paying $4 an hour premium pay across all of our stores.
- Seattle Grocer