Oakland approves ‘hazard pay’ for grocery store workers

OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON/BCN) – Oakland City Council approved an emergency ordinance requiring large grocery chains to increase worker pay by $5 during the pandemic.

The temporary increase will last until the city enters the moderate (yellow) level in CA’s reopening plan.

The San Jose City Council was also set to vote on the same proposal Tuesday.

If passed, the ordinance introduced by Councilmember Sergio Jimenez would be implemented immediately and expire when the county’s COVID-19 health order is lifted.

“Alongside doctors and nurses, retail food workers have served the residents of San Jose while taking on tremendous risks,” Jimenez said.

Retail workers, including grocery store employees, are five times more likely to test positive for COVID-19, according to a study published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

“Hazard pay is necessary to justly compensate retail food workers for the clear and present dangers of doing their jobs during the pandemic, ensure the welfare of workers, and continue stable operation of our much-needed food supply chain,” Jimenez added.

The extra pay would only apply to food suppliers that have 300 or more employees nationwide.

Small corner stores, mom and pop shops and smaller ethnic supermarkets wouldn’t be subject to the ordinance because they have already been disproportionally hit by COVID-19, Jimenez said.

In the early days of the pandemic, some grocery stores voluntarily instituted wage increases in the form of “Hero Pay” or “Appreciation Pay,” but many stopped, Jimenez said.

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