SF supervisors unanimously approve hazard pay ordinance for grocery workers

File photo shows a grocery store employee stocking shelves.

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an emergency ordinance that would authorize $5 an hour hazard pay for grocery and pharmacy workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The board’s vote on Tuesday gets San Francisco on board with other Bay Area cities like Berkeley, San Jose, and Oakland in guaranteeing workers hazard pay in dangerous conditions. The vote comes nearly one-year into the local health emergency that prompted lockdowns, curfews and closures. 

"Our essential grocery workers are often paid minimum wage and are expected to take high risks by constant exposure to the public. While we have protocols in place to wear a mask, stay 6-feet apart, and stay home if you’re sick, we know these protocols are not always followed by the public," said Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton. "This emergency ordinance compensates grocery workers and drug store workers who have had heightened exposure throughout this pandemic by working to survive." 

A spokesperson for United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 5 thanked Supervisor Walton for pressing this issue on behalf of its workers. 

"There has not been one incident where a grocery store or drug store was shut down during this pandemic due to COVID-19," said Supervisor Ahsha Safai. "This is a testament to the workers who have kept these stores open and safe. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this legislation to give our grocery and drug store workers hazard pay."

Walton said the ordinance is a follow up to a resolution passed by supervisors in January, urging large chain grocery stores to raise hourly wages for employees during the pandemic as a way to further support workers who have provided food and other essentials.

The ordinance is not designed to affect mom and pop retailers and will only apply to grocery stores and retail pharmacies with at least 20 employees in San Francisco and 500 or more employees worldwide. 

The Sacramento-based California Grocers Association argued these wage hikes for grocery store workers could have harmful impacts, potentially resulting in lost jobs or hours for workers and higher food prices at smaller stores. 

City officials said the ordinance will be in effect for 60 days or however long the local emergency lasts.

Workers who make under $35 per hour or under $75,000 a year are eligible for the hazard pay. 

The ordinance will go into effect three days after the mayor signs off.

Bay City News contributed to this story.