PCC Community Markets, one of the country’s most innovative independent grocers, now says it will offer a temporary $4 per hour wage increase in pandemic hazard pay.
The move comes weeks after the food retailer said such mandates — which are gaining steam on the West Coast — would be "deeply damaging" to the grocery industry, thanks in large part to slim margins and the ongoing costs of protecting against the pandemic. Most recently, PCC said it had submitted a pay proposal to the United Foods and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 21 to resolve the pay mandate issue for the store and its workers.
PCC indicated it is providing this additional pay to all of its nearly 1,500 union represented staff members at the co-op’s 15 locations. Hazard pay will be paid retroactively from Feb. 3.
In PCC’s view, the food retailer “is taking an equitable approach to hazard pay for all hourly store staff across the co-op and not just paying at its eight Seattle locations where it’s mandated by municipal ordinance. For those staff members outside the City of Seattle — approximately 700 staff — the increase will run until the lifting of the state emergency order or June 5, 2021, whichever happens first.”
Seattle has already approved the pandemic pay increase, as have a growing number of cities in California — most recently Irvine and San Jose. But as those local governments push forward with pay mandates, food retailers are pushing back, either by closing stores or filing federal lawsuits.
As for PCC, it says that besides the new pay increase, it has reached an understanding with UFCW Local 21 on the future implementation of curbside pickup, a service members and shoppers have asked for throughout the pandemic. The co-op believes that the addition of this contact-free service will further enhance safety for shoppers and staff while creating added job opportunities within the co-op.
“We prioritize our staff, and this week was no exception. We appreciate the UFCW Local 21’s partnership and are pleased we could come to terms on our offer to provide hazard pay across the co-op,” said PCC CEO and President Suzy Monford. “The addition of curbside will help the co-op grow and sustain jobs, while also providing a safe, contact-less, modernized option for members and shoppers.”
PCC has also worked to coalesce local and national support to expand access to vaccines. Through collaboration with trade associations and with other grocers, the co-op was able to offer priority vaccination appointments starting next week for co-op store staff who meet the state’s current vaccination criteria.
The co-op will continue to work with retail partners and government agencies for the prioritization of available vaccines for all grocery workers.
PCC said it has spent more than $4 million on COVID-related employee and operating costs in 2020. This included staff member appreciation pay, bonuses to all staff to thank their tireless efforts, and in-store safety protocols from installation of plexiglass barriers at check stands to the upgrading of store HVAC systems. PCC is also providing KN95 masks to all staff and the co-op’s “no mask, no entry” policy remains in place to provide a safe environment for staff and the larger PCC community of members and shoppers.
PCC operates 15 stores in the Puget Sound area, including the cities of Bellevue, Bothell, Burien, Edmonds, Issaquah, Kirkland, Redmond and Seattle. Seattle stores are in the Ballard, Central District, Columbia City, Fremont, Green Lake, View Ridge and West Seattle neighborhoods.