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Hazard Pay Passes: Essential Pay for Essential Workers

As the coronavirus pandemic rages, many of us are figuring out ways to reduce exposure. That’s not possible for our city’s grocery workers.  Grocery workers show up every day to stores filled with customers, some of whom are coughing, unmasked, and not practicing social distancing. A recent study of grocery workers in Boston found 20% of the workers tested positive for COVID-19, despite high mask usage.

We need to be offering hazard pay to grocery workers to compensate for the hazard they are putting themselves in every day. I'm proud to have sponsored legislation that will give grocery workers in Seattle an additional $4 / hour - and on Monday it passed unanimously!

As one Seattle grocery worker, Maggie Bershears, put it:

“I love my job. I love helping people. One of my favorite parts of the job was helping people find what they are looking for in the store. Since the start of the pandemic, work in the store has changed dramatically. The workload in my department, the Pick-up department, has tripled in the last year. Now, each customer who approaches me is not only a threat to myself, but my family members. My son and my husband are both considered high risk. And now, each person who refuses to social distance, or who reaches over me to grab a zucchini, is putting not just me, but my family in harm's way. I would prefer to not have the hazard. But I don't think it is unreasonable to ask for added compensation given the additional risks that are now present. I didn't sign up to sacrifice myself to keep my community going during the worst public health crisis in my lifetime. But that is what I am being asked to do, and for the same pay as when the greatest risk I faced was crossing the parking lot at the end of my shift,

This legislation will be immediately effective upon signature by Mayor Durkan. Our work isn’t yet done – all grocery workers, and all essential workers, deserve protective equipment, hazard pay, and early vaccine distribution. 

Seattle joins the cities of Berkley and Long Beach in California who already passed similar legislation, and will soon be joined by San Jose, Montebello, Oakland, Los Angeles City and Los Angeles County. Up and down the West Coast, local jurisdictions are stepping in to recognize the hazard that grocery workers are in every day, and passing laws to respect that work by requiring hazard pay. 

Media Coverage:

COVID-19 Vaccination Update

Washington State is currently in Phase 1B – Tier 1 of vaccine distribution. This means that the vaccine is available to anyone age 65 or over and all people age 50 and older who live in multigenerational households. Multigeneration households are defined as a home where individuals of two or more generations reside, such as an elder and a grandchild. These groups are in addition to the Phase 1A groups including high-risk health care workers, first responders, long-term care facility residents, and all other workers at risk in health care settings. If you fall into one of these populations, you can use the Washington State Phase Finder tool to do a short online evaluation. The evaluation will tell you if you are eligible and direct you to the closest vaccination site. The cost of the vaccine is covered by your healthcare provider, or free for the uninsured.

Public Health Seattle King County (PHSKC) will open King County’s first high-volume, open-access vaccination site by February 1st. Additionally, mobile vaccination teams will be deployed to reach those eligible for vaccines in Phase 1B who are homebound or houseless. Seattle and Bellevue Fire Departments and Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority have launched mobile teams focusing on Phase 1A individuals still needing vaccination; seven more mobile units, to be run by community partners, are being trained so that they can begin vaccinating Phase 1B people as vaccine dose become more readily available.

Seattle Times reports that two cases of the COVID variant B-117 first identified in the UK has been detected in Snohomish County. Because the B-117 variant is about twice as transmissible, it is more crucial than ever that we follow CDC guidelines. Stay home, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, wear a mask if you must go out, stay 6 feet away from others, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water – or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable.

The COVID-19 vaccine is just one of the many tools we can use to slow the spread of the virus, but even those vaccinated must continue to follow CDC guidelines. Additionally, the WA Notify tool is available for both iPhones and Android phones and can help to alert you if you have been near someone that has tested positive for COVID-19. WA Notify has nearly 1.71 million users state-wide.

Racialized Trauma and Child Well-Being Event

Speaking of community updates, mark your calendrers! Our friends at Child Haven are putting on an incredible event Racialized Trauma and Child Well-Being: Insights and Practical Tools for Healing on February 4, 2021, 10am-3pm PST. Resmaa Menakem author of My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and Pathways to Healing our Hearts and Bodies, is a featured speaker at this event. Resmaa will be joined by Seattle’s own Sean Goode from Choose 180 and Megan Beers from Childhaven. 

Click this link to register

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace
and the norms and notions of what just-is isn’t always justice

Last week, we all waited on the edge of our chairs, two weeks after an insurrection and siege attempt, as President Biden and Vice-President Harris took over to lead our country through the coronavirus public health crisis. Much like Seattle, this country is facing a pandemic killing our most vulnerable and pushing low-income workers, small businesses, and many of our BIPOC residents past the brink.

We are at the intersection of a racial reckoning; with a choice of which road do we go down -- the path of status quo or the road less taken, with tumult, and hard choices. Our nation's leaders have tough choices and deep coalition building to do.

And here, locally, we have an opportunity -- to press reset and come together. The country and city I know want the same things, but we no longer know how to have conversations with each other. Let's use this as an opportunity to build together.

Congratulations to our new President, Madam Vice President and to our country.

In solidarity,
Teresa Mosqueda

Seattle City Council Councilmember, Position 8
Copyright © 2021 Seattle City Council, All rights reserved.

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