The following is an opinion piece from a Seattle DSA member and may or may not represent the opinion of our chapter.
Today, Seattle city council will be voting on legislation to end hazard pay for frontline grocery workers in Seattle. The extra $4/hr was designed as a meager compensation to workers for continuing to work during the ongoing plague.
If this sounds familiar, it is! The council previously voted 8-0 to repeal this hazard pay legislation (with the exception of Councilmember Kshama Sawant who was out sick). Then, through a bizarre stroke of goodwill, Mayor Durkan vetoed the council’s vote – citing how the Omicron variant was picking up steam and required a reconsideration of the repeal.
All eight of these votes were made while the council worked remotely via Zoom. Something that unfortunately is not an option for everyday grocery workers.
Astoundingly, in the first iteration, “worker advocate” Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda sponsored the legislation (who I now thoroughly regret door-knocking for, sigh). It’s no surprise that the more conservative members of the council joined her in voting for this legislation (Sara Nelson is tearing up quietly at a missed opportunity). But it is surprising that the “Economic Justice” Councilmember Tammy Morales would vote for this and then chastise a constituent on how “the legislative process works” rather than explain her position.
So here we are again.
We have another highly contagious COVID-19 variant moving through our communities.
We have another proposal to end hazard pay.
And this time, in true Seattle fashion, CM Morales and Mosqueda have decided that rather than a political confrontation (scary, & very not Seattle) or a bad vote (have to keep that pro worker vibe strong!), they’d rather take a “long planned family reunion” and just be absent from the meeting tomorrow.
Look, I too dream of long-planned vacations. I’d really like to just forget about the world for a bit, sit quietly in a cabin somewhere, and read until the sun goes down. But I also didn’t run for city council. At a minimum, the self-identified worker council members could have issued a statement, complained that this critical vote was scheduled while they were gone, or voiced some pittance of opposition.
Or of course, maybe this was a terrible miscommunication, they were both outplayed by the conservative council majority. Perhaps Sara Nelson, in a moment of evil genius, gave them both weekday passes to some secret Fremont Brewing all-you-can-drink extravaganza. Or maybe, in their economic wisdom, they know that grocery workers taking a brutal pay cut will be the move that finally turns back inflation!
As they sip their beachside daiquiris, finish their round of golf, or whatever ‘worker advocates’ do instead of protecting hazard pay, I hope they think of the the workers who are about to lose the $4 an hour they’re using to pay for their skyrocketing rents or the medical care they undoubtedly need from catching COVID-19 at their jobs.
Fernando Medina Corey
(he/they), organizer with Seattle Democratic Socialists of America