Kroger is closing two more stores, this time in Seattle, rather than providing workers with hazard pay. A law that went into effect this month in the city requires grocery stores of a certain size to pay workers an extra $4 per hour amid the COVID-19 pandemic, CNN reports. As a result, the grocery store chain has decided to close two of its Quality Food Center (QFC) stores in April, the Washington Post reports. QFC says in a statement that operating costs have increased during the pandemic, and the stores in question were consistently losing money. "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," the statement says. Hazard pay would make it "impossible to operate a financially sustainable business."
Hazard pay measures are increasing, especially along the West Coast, and Kroger already announced it would close a Ralph's and a Food 4 Less in Long Beach, Calif., in response to a similar measure. Kroger, which paid an extra $2 per hour in hazard pay in the early stages of the pandemic but stopped that practice in May, says it has already invested $1.5 billion on worker pay and safety measures. But many grocery store chains have profited amid the pandemic, the Seattle Times reports. Kroger's profits doubled from $1.3 billion to $2.6 billion during the first three quarters of 2020 compared to the first three quarters of 2019, even after accounting for the cost of hazard pay and safety measures. "Kroger has literally made billions in pandemic profits off the sacrifices of grocery workers in Seattle and across the country," the president of a union that represents many Kroger workers says. "Kroger’s action today not only threatens these workers, but it also threatens the local food supply." (Read more Kroger stories.)