REDWOOD CITY — Redwood City on Monday became the latest Bay Area city to require temporary hazard pay for grocery and pharmacy workers, but the councilwoman who pushed the measure thinks more can be done.
City council members voted unanimously to require all grocery stores and pharmacies with more than 750 employees nationwide to give $5 an hour in extra hazard pay to workers because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That means employees at stores such as Nob Hill, Rite Aid, Safeway, Whole Foods and Target in Redwood City will get a boost in pay until July 11.
The measure comes after more than a dozen other cities across Northern California passed similar measures, including Millbrae, San Mateo and South San Francisco on the Peninsula. Colma and San Carlos are also considering doing the same.
Judy Lynn of the San Mateo Labor Council said the increase in pay will go a long way to show essential workers who risk their health by interacting with the public that their work is valued.
“While all of our numerous frontline workers are serving heroically and putting themselves into dangerous situations to deliver critical goods and services, and have since the start of the pandemic, the motivation is simply rate of pay and degree of exposure,” Lynn said. “These large grocery and drugstores have made record profits during the pandemic. They can afford it.”
Councilwoman Espinoza-Garnica said the measure doesn’t go far enough. Unlike some other cities that required employers with more than 500 employees to give hazard pay, Espinoza-Garnica said Redwood City is being “conservative” and an “outlier” in applying the rule only to companies with a minimum of 750 employees.
The higher threshold would exclude large grocery store chain Chavez Supermarkets, which has two locations in the city. The grocery chain told the city it has fewer than 750 employees, but Espinoza-Garnica suggested may be an under-reported number.
Asked to comment for this story, Chavez Supermarkets said in a statement it is not allowed to disclose the number of employees to this news organization and is not affected by the ordinance.
“Since this is a self-reported survey, there’s no real accuracy that can be confirmed for us,” Espinoza-Garnica said, citing a report from the city of San Mateo that said the chain had at least 750 workers.
“Chavez Supermarkets is either being dishonest or made a huge clerical error,” she said. “Chavez has a history of being anti-union. Just because they are a Latinx private business doesn’t mean it’s a pro-Latin, pro-Brown, pro-immigrant business. Perhaps we’re a little afraid to scrutinize the superficial layer they show us.”
She asked her council colleagues to apply the 500-employee minimum other cities use and to include two weeks of retroactive pay for workers, but they weren’t swayed.
Some council members noted that if Redwood City required back pay, it would be the only city to do so.
Mayor Diane Howard said she wasn’t comfortable with retroactive pay for workers.
“No other city has done that as far as I’m aware of, so I would be a little uncomfortable doing something that no one else has done,” Howard said. “We’re really trying to do something that’s a little out of the box and necessary, and I don’t want to jeopardize it in any way.”
Though he voted in favor of the ordinance, Councilman Jeff Gee said he’d actually prefer if it applied only to businesses with at least 1,000 employees nationwide to exclude the city’s franchises and small local businesses.
He said small stores with lower profit margins shouldn’t have to bear the burden.
“Not all stores are the same,” Gee said. “I went to one of the largest stores in Redwood City and one of the smallest. The business you can generate in 4,000 square feet versus 100,000 square feet is a big difference. I challenge everyone of you to justify that you can produce the same profits with less space.”
Click this link for the original source of this article.
Author: Aldo Toledo
This content is courtesy of, and owned and copyrighted by, https://www.eastbaytimes.com and its author. This content is made available by use of the public RSS feed offered by the host site and is used for educational purposes only. If you are the author or represent the host site and would like this content removed now and in the future, please contact USSANews.com using the email address in the Contact page found in the website menu.