Tonight the Council discussed two significant items.
- The first was hearing the appeal of the Planning Commission decision to recommend denial of the Oak Creek Canyon project, 6 single family homes at the eastern part of Clayton. Because both staff and the applicant requested a continuance in order to gather more materials, the Council agreed to continue this item until the special meeting scheduled for June 29, 2021.
- The second item was a request by Cloven to discuss hazard pay for grocery store workers and whether we as a council should direct staff to draft an ordinance for action at a future meeting.
I appreciate and am grateful for the work that grocery store employees performed over the last 15 months of the pandemic. If the question is whether grocery store workers merit hazard pay for their continued work throughout difficult and sometimes hazardous conditions, I would say yes. At the same time, that is a matter that is between a private employer and its employees. It is not the role of government to intercede in this relationship. It would not be the city paying this hazard pay, but rather it would be the city compelling a private organization to pay its employees more than they agreed to through their collective bargaining agreement.
Also problematic was isolating only grocery store workers. And of all groups, grocery store workers are some of the best represented by their unions whose role is to look out for the interests of its members. There were many groups of people who were deemed to be essential workers that continued to work throughout the pandemic. One group would be city employees, specifically our police. It would be hypocritical to compel other groups to pay their employees more, where we as a city did not do the same.
One issue that was raised was the timing of any ordinance. Logistically we would first need to take action to direct staff to draft the ordinance for discussion at a future meeting. Ordinances like this take two readings to take effect, so we would be looking at 5-7 weeks at the earliest for any hazard pay ordinance to take effect. As the tier system, capacity limits, and mask requirements are scheduled to be discontinued in two weeks after June 15, moving forward with an ordinance now didn't make a lot of sense even from a logistical perspective.
A retroactive ordinance was discussed briefly, but as we were informed by our City Attorney that any such retroactive ordinance would likely be litigated as an unconstitutional taking (5th amendment), this made a retroactive ordinance to be even more problematic.
Ultimately the Council declined to direct staff to take any action. There was no motion to do so and the matter was closed. As we are aware there will likely be CARES Act funding that will be coming to the city, we felt that would be a better vehicle to target aid to those individuals and businesses in Clayton that were impacted by the pandemic.