For the second time this month, Kroger announced it will close stores in response to local governments passing measures requiring hazard pay for grocery workers.

This time, the company announced Tuesday it will close two of its QFC locations in Seattle after the city council passed an ordinance requiring an extra $4 per hour for workers at stores larger than 85,000 square feet. It extends to grocery stores with more than 500 employees worldwide. Up to 10,000 workers in Seattle are eligible.

"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," QFC said in a press release Tuesday. "When you factor in the increases 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 stores are at 416 15th Ave. East and 8400 35th Ave. NE in Seattle, according to  KOMO News. Kroger's announcement comes two weeks after two grocery industry trade groups filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle over the new law.

The union representing workers at the locations called the announcement "corporate bullying." Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan also blasted the move.

"Kroger is a huge conglomerate that has made billions in profits during COVID because its frontline workers continued to show up every day, despite the risk to themselves," Durkan said. "It is unfortunate that Kroger chose to accelerate closer of stores they had already planned to close and then blamed it on the need to pay the very workers who brought them these huge revenues."

Kroger is the largest supermarket company in the U.S., with more than 2,700 stores under 16 different names, including QFC. The company offered workers an extra $2 per hour in hazard pay in the early stages of the pandemic but eliminated the bonus in May. The company says it had spent $1.5 billion in wages and safety measures in its stores.

Earlier this month, Kroger announced it would close two stores in Long Beach, Calif., in response to that city enacting a hazard pay law for grocery workers. The movement has gained momentum in the West, with proposals in several California cities that call for $4 to $5 in extra hourly pay for grocery workers, declared essential during the many lockdowns last year.

Kroger's year-over-year profit doubled from $1.3 billion to $2.6 billion during the first three quarters of 2020. The company also bought back $989 million in stock during that time, with the board authorizing an extra $1 billion in share repurchases.

Kroger_2019_FFE Kroger has introduced a new brand message and logo design. Photo: Kroger