Redwood City council takes step toward imposing hazard pay

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Redwood City is likely to become the next San Mateo County jurisdiction to require hazard pay from large grocery or drug stores during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a unanimous vote Monday, City Council directed the city’s staff to return to the next meeting with ordinance proposals that would make the hazard pay requirement effective immediately after the council approves it. Council also asked staff to provide information to help it determine the amount of hazard pay to mandate, and which companies will need to pay it.

Councilmember Lissette Espinoza-Garnica, who brought the proposal to council, recommended the hazard pay be “as progressive as South City.”

South San Francisco and the City of San Mateo have passed ordinances requiring a hazard wage of $5 per hour in addition to an employee’s base wage, a rate likely to be included in Redwood City’s proposal. The City of San Carlos plans to discuss the possibility of a implementing a similar ordinance at its meeting Tuesday.

South City’s ordinance impacts businesses sized at over 85,000 square feet that dedicate at least 10 percent of their space to food sales and have 500 or more employees nationwide. San Mateo’s ordinance impacts businesses with over 750 employees that dedicate at least 10 percent of their space to food sales and exempts franchises.

Both cities additionally require up to four hours pay for time employees spend getting vaccinated.

Espinoza-Garnica also proposed requiring retroactive hazard pay to employees that haven’t been receiving it during the pandemic.

None of the councilmembers expressed opposition to imposing hazard pay on large national chains like Target, Whole Foods, Rite Aid and Safeway that have been able to remain open throughout the pandemic. Councilmember Jeff Gee expressed concern about unintended impacts of including regional chains like Chavez Market in the ordinance and requiring retroactive hazard pay. Not all stores are similarly profitable, and Gee wants to be certain the final ordinance doesn’t lead to store closures or staff reductions.