In response to Seattle’s new law mandating a pay raise of $4 an hour for grocery store workers, QFC announced Tuesday that two of its stores in the area will be closing for good on April 24. QFC has described these two stores – located at 416 15th Ave. East and at 8400 35th Ave. NE – as “underperforming” and “long struggling”, and the wage hike means operating them at a loss. In a prepared statement, the company stated that “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. When you factor in the increased costs of operating during COVID-19, coupled with consistent financial losses at these two locations and this new extra pay mandate, it becomes impossible to operate a financially sustainable business.”
The decision to close these locations has drawn criticism from United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), who say that the company’s decision is a “transparent attempt to intimidate other local governments from passing ordinances that would provide hazard pay to front line grocery store workers”, and “corporate bullying”. QFC argues that they already give their workers a competitive wage at $20 per hour, and health care and pension benefits, which makes total hourly compensation over $25. Currently, QFC is working to ensure vaccination priority for frontline grocery workers, offering $100 to employees who receive their second dose. An executive for the company spoke to Winsight Grocery Business about their federal and local plea for vaccines, stating “a pay bump isn’t going to make workers safer, but a vaccine will.”
The hazard pay legislation took effect earlier this month and will remain in place until the end of the pandemic, or until revisited by the Seattle City Council.