Kroger will close two stores in Seattle over the city's $4-an-hour hazard pay requirement for grocery workers
The company, the largest grocery chain in the United States, plans to close two stores in Seattle after the city passed a $4-an-hour hazard pay mandate for grocery workers, drawing sharp rebukes from local officials and worker advocates who point to the company’s booming sales as the pandemic continues to claim more than 2,000 lives a day.
"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,"
QFC (Quality Food Centers) said in a news release Tuesday.
QFC said its operating costs have increased during the pandemic and there were "consistent financial losses" at the two stores. With the additional hazard pay requirement, "it becomes impossible to operate a financially sustainable business.”
In a statement, QFC took issue with the Seattle City Council for requiring grocers to pay workers extra without raising compensation for municipal frontline workers, who it said: “are serving with the same dignity and determination as our own associates.” Pointing to the “razor-thin profit margins” grocery stores generate, the grocer said the added expenses imposed on it by the pay mandate squeezed the stores to the point that continuing to operate them was not an option.
“Kroger has literally made billions in pandemic profits off the sacrifices of grocery workers in Seattle and across the country,”
said the union’s president, Marc Perrone.
“Kroger’s action today not only threatens these workers, but it also threatens the local food supply. Instead of doing what is right, protecting the community and providing the hazard pay for these essential grocery workers, Kroger is once again trying to intimidate local and national elected leaders.”
Kroger said it would try to relocate the employees from the two stores, about 109 according to the union, but it did not give specifics about how many workers would be laid off in the move.