Vaccines are better way to tackle COVID hazard

Mar 18, 2021
Written by Renée Sunde, President & CEO

For the past year, retailers all across Washington State have taken extraordinary steps to protect their employees and customers from the COVID-19 virus. Masks and social distancing are required at retail stores, along with other safety measures.

Stores have spent millions retrofitting their payment areas with plexiglass shields, enhancing their ventilations systems, and sanitizing. Customers have contributed as well by wearing masks, distancing, and, in some cases, limiting their shopping trips to remain safe.

And now we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. The national rollout of effective vaccines has been picking up at an impressive rate. Every adult American will be eligible for vaccination by the end of May. Washington now prioritizes front-line grocery workers to receive vaccines at no charge.

However, over the past few weeks, local governments around the state have begun adopting “hazard” pay ordinances that require grocers to pay their workers an additional $4 – $5 per hour. We’ve already seen the ill effects of this strategy as QFC recently closed two stores in Seattle after the $4 hazard pay mandate went into effect. California has seen a similar result as some grocers closed rather than absorb financial losses from mandated hazard pay.

Besides Seattle, Burien has approved a $5 hazard pay mandate and the King County Council has approved $4 in hazard pay. Tacoma. Bainbridge Island, Port Townsend, and Port Angeles are considering similar mandates.

Why are local governments so focused on mandating hazard pay for grocery workers but not providing hazard pay to their own frontline workers, like Metro bus drivers, some of whom lost their lives to Covid?

In Seattle, library workers are on the front line as they provide restroom facilities to the homeless and Parks Department workers are on the front line as they clean parks with encampments. Why do local governments not focus first on their own front-line workers?

Both the Centers for Disease Control and the Advisory Committee on Immunization recommend that frontline retail workers be prioritized for the vaccine.

In short, the vaccine is the answer to defeating the virus and returning to a more normal life.

Washington Retail urges local governments throughout the state to focus on the needs of their own front-line workers and to speed the vaccinations of their residents. Let’s all do everything we can to defeat Covid and allow people to return to their lives.