SEATTLE — Nationwide grocery store chain Kroger says they will close two more stores because local lawmakers have instituted a hazard pay mandate.
Kroger announced they will close two Quality Food Centers, QFC, in the Seattle area in a few months. According to the company, the $4-an-hour hazard pay mandate for grocery workers recently passed by the Seattle City Council would raise costs at the two underperforming stores.
“Unfortunately, Seattle City Council didn’t consider that grocery stores — even in a pandemic — operate on razor-thin profit margins in a very competitive landscape,” Kroger said in a statement.
“When you factor in the increased costs of operating during covid-19, coupled with consistent financial losses at these two locations, and this new extra pay mandate, it becomes impossible to operate a financially sustainable business.”
This is in addition to two stores Kroger is closing in Long Beach, California, after that city passed a measure requiring hazard pay for large grocery stores.
Other cities, including Berkeley, Oakland and Los Angeles, have moved forward with similar hazard pay measures.
Kroger is not alone is pushing back on the hazard pay measures, business interest groups, including the Northwest Grocery Association and the Washington Food Industry Association, are suing Seattle over their hazard pay mandate, according to the Washington Post.
Seattle city council members responded to the company’s decision to close stores citing Kroger’s recent statements about surging profits in 2020.
“Kroger has posted record earnings during this pandemic,” Council President M. Lorena González said in a statement. “The city’s front line grocery workers, meanwhile, are exposed to covid-19 every day and many are still living paycheck to paycheck.”
Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda called Kroger’s decision “beyond disappointing.”
73% of Seattleites support #hazardpay for grocery workers. I stand with them. That’s why it’s beyond disappointing - it's harmful to our public health and retaliatory - that @kroger decided to announce the closure of 2 Seattle stores. 1/— Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (@CMTMosqueda) February 17, 2021
Kroger was among the list of companies who offered employees hazard pay at the beginning of the pandemic, others on the list included Target, Walmart, Amazon, Albertsons, etc. Kroger reportedly offered employees an extra $2 an hour.
However, many companies, including Kroger, ended hazard pay as parts of the country reopened or relaxed coronavirus safety protocols last summer. Some companies offered a one-time bonus in its place, Kroger offered some employees a $400 bonus in May 2020.