Despite opposition from large grocers, San Francisco extended a law Tuesday to require they continue to pay their employees an additional $5 per hour in hazard pay for nearly 30 more days.
Starting March 20, large grocery and drug stores were required to pay their employees the hourly hazard pay under legislation previously approved by the Board of Supervisors with an end date of May 19.
But the board unanimously approved legislation introduced by Board President Shamann Walton to extend the required $5 hourly pay until June 15, when Gov. Gavin Newsom said he plans to fully reopen the state’s economy and lift the state’s COVID-19 tier restrictions.
“Things are getting better in most areas, but we are still in a local declared emergency and the pandemic is still upon us,” Walton said, adding that these employees have “continuously worked hard through this pandemic to make sure that all of us continue to have access to food, supplies, basic necessities.”
City officials had said many stores did provide some form of hazard pay at the start of the pandemic last year but discontinued it last summer.
At the outset, the California Grocers Association, a trade group representing thousands of grocery stores in the state, opposed the hazard pay law in San Francisco and similar ones in other cities and even filed lawsuits against some cities to try and overturn them.
San Francisco’s law applies to grocery stores and drug stores with 500 or more employees worldwide. Store employees entitled to the hazard pay include janitors and security guards. The current minimum wage in San Francisco is $16.01.
The grocers trade group has argued that pay should be left up to the individual stores to determine and warned that costs would be passed onto consumers. Most recently, the group argued hazard pay was not justified since San Francisco moved into the state’s least restrictive COVID-19 yellow tier, when spread of the virus is considered minimal.
Walton, however, said that surrounding Bay Area counties remain in the state’s second least restrictive tier “and we know that residents travel between counties to go to work or to shop.”
The United Food and Commercial Workers labor union, which represents grocery employees, said the stores have had record profits during the pandemic and without these types of laws the money would not be seen by the workers who deserve the additional pay for the health risks they are exposed to when interacting with the public.