San Mateo city leaders this week approved a hazard pay ordinance requiring large grocery stores and drugstores in the city to pay employees an additional $5 an hour.
The emergency ordinance applies to stores that employ at least 750 employees nationwide and dedicate at least 10% of their floor space to selling food. Non-salaried, customer-facing employees who are exposed to COVID-19 during their work will be covered by the ordinance.
The emergency ordinance is effective immediately and applies for 90 days. Council members also voted to include a requirement that employers provide their employees four hours of paid leave to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
While the original ordinance would have applied to employers with 500 or more employees nationwide, Councilwoman Diane Papan proposed raising the employee count to 750 or more so that smaller, independent employers would be excluded.
The City Council voted 5-0 in favor of the amended ordinance, which would apply to 10 companies in the city such as Safeway, Target, Trader Joe's and Chavez Supermarket.
Jennifer Chen, the city's economic development manager, said that Chavez Supermarket and Mollie Stone's Markets, both of which employ fewer than 1,000 employees nationwide, felt the most penalized by the ordinance as they have not enjoyed the same profits as larger, publicly traded companies and are ineligible for government loans afforded to smaller stores.
Mike Stone, Mollie Stone's CEO, said their stores have provided protections and paid COVID-19 leave to employees and that the ordinance could lead to reduced hours, layoffs and possible store closures. Stone opposed the ordinance, which ultimately would not apply to Mollie Stone's since it employs fewer than 750 workers nationwide.
The California Grocers Association also opposed the ordinance, a stance it has taken in other cities and counties that have considered or approved similar ordinances.
Members of the public and representatives from the San Mateo County Central Labor Council supported the ordinance as did union representatives from United Food and Commercial Workers locals, saying it recognizes the hard work and sacrifices grocery store workers endure to continue serving communities. More than 1,000 UFCW Local 5 members have contracted the virus, according to the organization's website.
One caller, who identified himself as an essential worker and a member of UFCW Local 5, said that that it is hard for grocery store workers to support their families.
"This hazard pay would go a long way in giving us peace of mind and a cushion that will provide us the ability to continue to pay our rent, bills, put food on the table, doctors' bills and medicines," the caller said.
The City Council also introduced a regular hazard pay ordinance, which it will consider adopting at its next meeting on March 15.
A regular ordinance would include the same terms as the emergency ordinance but would go into effect 30 days after adoption and last for 120 days so that workers have enough time to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
San Mateo is the second city in San Mateo County to approve a hazard pay ordinance, following the South San Francisco City Council's affirmative decision on Feb. 23. San Mateo County supervisors considered a hazard pay ordinance for unincorporated areas of the county on Feb. 23, but delayed adopting the ordinance pending further research.
Similar ordinances have been adopted in other Bay Area cities, including Oakland, Berkeley and San Jose.
For more information on the city of San Mateo's ordinance and to view video from Monday's meeting, visit the city website.