San Carlos opts not to pursue hazard pay ordinance

in Community

San Carlos will not require large grocery and drug store chains in its city to provide hazard pay to their frontline workers the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Peninsula cities including Daly City, South San Francisco and Millbrae have imposed $5 per hour hazard pay for frontline employees of large grocery and drug stores and Redwood City appears headed in that direction, the proposal to explore a similar ordinance in San Carlos did not have enough support on City Council Tuesday.

A hazard pay ordinance in San Carlos would likely impact Lucky’s, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, CVS and Dollar Tree.

Councilmembers who opposed such an ordinance, including Ron Collins and John Dugan and Vice Mayor Sara McDowell, expressed concern over the timing and legal ramifications of the proposal, and believe it isn’t equitable to target a small number of employers to benefit certain city workers but not others. Dugan said setting of the city’s minimum wage, which was raised to $15.24 this year, along with affordable housing initiatives are more equitable ways the city can lift up workers. The city could use funding that will be provided to cities from President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to help frontline workers, Dugan added.

McDowell echoed the need for more equitable relief initiatives that doesn’t favor some frontline workers over others. She said the threat of substantial legal fees to defend the city in federal court gave her pause as well, noting Daly City is currently being sued over its hazard pay ordinance. San Carlos’ budget currently can’t afford that scenario, she said.

Councilmembers who supported looking into a hazard pay ordinance, including Adam Rak and Mayor Laura Parmer-Lohan, believe the city needs to support frontline employees in cases were their employers have not. Parmer-Lohan cautioned that the pandemic’s end is unknown given sluggish rollout of the vaccines and the unknown impacts of COVID-19 variants. She felt the city needed to meet the moment at a time when large chains have stopped voluntarily providing hazard pay to their workers while they continue to rake in large profits.

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