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WIN Articles for August 8, 2018

Lisa Bridge, Ben Bridge Jeweler

Lisa Bridge, Ben Bridge Jeweler

WRA partners with the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce to support Retail Month

Renée Sunde, President/CEO

September 2018 marks the 2nd “Careers in Retail” month and the Washington Retail Association is proud to partner with the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce as they host their September Forum on Wednesday, September 12.

This exciting event will be held at the Capital Mall in Olympia and will celebrate the mall’s 40 Year anniversary. Representing the nation’s largest private sector employer, retail supports one in every four jobs. In 2017 Washington’s retailers produced $155.3 billion in taxable sales and $19.8 billion in wages.

Although the retail industry is experiencing massive change and transformation, the growth of retail continues to set pace with the state’s low unemployment rate and strong consumer confidence.

Just as the industry continues to experience rapid change the job opportunities associated with an exciting career in retail continue to evolve. Technology is carving out new career paths in e-commerce, web and app development and information technology.

The industry offers a broad diversity of options from entry-level part-time work to management and executive positions. Today, more and more retail employers are offering training or tuition assistance to turn a job into a career.

The event’s keynote address will feature Lisa Bridge, President and Chief Operating Officer of Ben Bridge Jeweler. In 2015, Ben Bridge launched the Lisa Bridge Collection, a fashionable jewelry collection designed by Lisa.

Lisa graduated with honors from Washington University in St. Louis and obtained her Graduate Gemologist degree in residence at the Gemological Institute of America. A fifth generation in the company, Lisa honors the heritage of Ben Bridge while driving it towards future growth.

To learn more about the Thurston County Chamber and their coming events go to the events page.


voteRepublicans get pounded in primary election

By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs

Last night the early primary election results strongly favored the Democrats.

From the U.S. Senate race to the state legislative races, Republicans were pounded across the state.  However, many ballots are yet to be counted.  Republicans are hoping that their supporters mailed their ballots late and that the numbers will sway back in their direction.

What caused this?  Is it an anti-Trump sentiment?  Many theories are swirling about.

This election cycle is extremely important as both the state Senate and House are controlled by the Democrats by razor-thin margins – one vote in the Senate and two votes in the House.

While the primary is not the final say on who gets to serve in Congress in Washington, D.C. or to serve in the Legislature at our State Capitol in Olympia, it is a major indicator of the strength of the candidates, their messages and the voter sentiment.

That means that the general election, scheduled for November 6th, will be very interesting.


Healthcare in Washington facing tough times

By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs

Last week I attended the annual legislative healthcare conference with a much clearer understanding of the significant challenges facing Washington State’s health care system.

First and foremost our behavioral health system which includes mental illness and substance addiction, is a mess.  A recent court case against the State ruled that we are not holding up our end of the deal by not evaluating folks in a timely manner.  Mentally ill who are picked up by police or end up in the hospital sometimes were not receiving the evaluation and treatment they needed for weeks or months.  The lawsuit will end up costing the state millions with no easy solution in the distance.

To compound the problem, Western State Mental Hospital was de-certified by the federal government.  There simply aren’t enough professionals and beds to treat everyone.  This will be a multi-year process that the Legislature will have to address when it convenes in January.

Second, our individual market for health insurance is almost non-existent.  We have 39 counties in Washington and most have only one choice or if you’re lucky, two choices of health plans to choose from.  And the sad part is they are very expensive and they are going up rapidly in cost.  Part of the problem is that the federal Affordable Care Act penalty for not having healthcare went away and so many healthy younger folks dropped their coverage leaving a smaller pool of sicker more health care needy folks to take up what was left.  With no income tax in Washington State, there is no way to require or force people to buy health care coverage.  Our current model is unsustainable.

Two ideas that were brought up is taking all of the expensive, health intensive folks and creating a high need pool that is heavily subsidized by those buying insurance and the state.  The other out of the box thought was to get rid of employers being in the business of providing health care for their employees and make the state an entirely individual market system where everyone is responsible for their own insurance.  I’m not sure how this would work on a state level – but it is going to take some major political fortitude to bail this sinking ship out and restore some sanity to our health care system.

WRA as an employer association is keenly interested in quality, accessible and affordable health care for both owners and their employees and their families.   Stay tuned, you will be hearing more about this important topic in the months and years to come.


WRA welcomes new affiliate member

Washington Retail Association welcomes the insurance and brokerage firm of Shepard and Shepard Business Solutions to its affiliate program.

Todd Shepard and his team provide insurance and brokerage services to several companies in the automotive and retail industry.  Their clients can join WRA’s retro program and receive safety and health services to help them save on their workers’ compensation and potentially other lines of insurance.  Shepard provides workers’ compensation services in surrounding states and will tie in with WRA’s services to provide members with streamlined reporting for all their states.

“We are excited for this opportunity,” said Tammie Hetrick, WRA’s Chief Operating Officer.

” Shepard and Shepard Business Solutions provides quality products and services and our programs will complement their array of benefits.”

Hetrick noted the partnership is an exciting growth opportunity for WRA and will add excellent, safety-conscious members to the retro program.


WRA urges a boycott of Seattle’s online scheduling survey

By John Engber, Director, Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle

The Washington Retail Association would like to inform you of what we believe is a biased and leading survey being conducted by Seattle city officials.

As you might remember, WRA and other business groups urged their members to not participate in the study commissioned by the City to examine the impacts of the Secure Scheduling Ordinance (“SSO”). The reason was that the City retained an academic researcher who had urged the City Council to pass the SSO. WRA and other business groups advocated for retaining an impartial researcher to conduct the study. When the City decided to ignore those concerns, the business community urged its members to not participate in this biased study.

Last week, many of you probably received an email from the City’s Office of Labor Standards with a link to a questionnaire from the SSO study team. For the reasons discussed above, we urge you to not complete this online survey.

Since the City is not pursuing an unbiased study of the impacts of the SSO, the WRA will be seeking feedback from its members about their experience with the SSO. For example, how has the SSO impacted the number of hours worked by your covered employees? We will provide more details in the near future.

We would appreciate any feedback or questions you have on these issues. Reach me at 206-850-5517 or at john@johnengber.com. You may also check my website, www.johnengber.com.


Lens looks at whether Seattle’s income tax will live or die

lensThe latest issue of The Lens updates the current legal status of Seattle’s progressive income tax.

It’s a topic that resonates with retailers and shoppers alike. Washington State voters have defeated six proposed constitutional amendments to overthrow the state’s progressive income tax ban.

In his piece, author TJ Martinell reports on the likelihood that the state Supreme Court will hear Seattle’s appeal of a lower court ruling that the tax is illegal. In short, the piece reports it is unclear whether the tax will stand since Seattle’s appeal of last May.

It is currently unknown whether or when the Supreme Court will hear Seattle’s appeal.

The city wanted to charge a 2.25 percent tax on total income above $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for married couples filing together. The aim was to raise an additional $140 million a year in income to the city.

Read more.


worksource The labor market and meat vendors

By Chad Pearson, Business Outreach, Employment Security Department

Knowing what’s going on with the labor market is a lot like the relationship with your meat vendor. You don’t need to review it every day, but you need to make sure you’re competitive or you won’t be in business for long. As a retail leader, you know how to look for new vendors, but what about paying the right wage or knowing if there are enough workers to fill your job openings in the future?

One place to start is the Employment Security Department (ESD) website. We gather information from employers, aggregate it and give it to you in simple terms at no additional cost. Valuable employment data is available on ESD’s Labor Market Information page, such as:

  • Employment projections
  • Worker supply-and-demand reports
  • Average and median wages

The data can be customized so you can digest it the way you like it. Dive lightly into graphs or deep into spreadsheets; you make the choice.

A favorite tool is learn about an occupation. There, you can look up individual positions or job categories, add filters such as location or demand, and see average wages, employment trends and expected annual openings. This page gives hiring managers and job seekers a great deal of information to make informed decisions.

Now you’re armed with solid information. To make sure you get the best candidate, head over to WorkSourceWA.com to post your jobs. For upcoming retail jobs fairs, please visit WorkSources workshop and hiring events page.

Once there, you will find a Dollar Tree hiring fair in Kennewick and another in Auburn the same day, Thursday of this week. Other hiring fairs are scheduled in Tacoma, Vancouver, Yakima and Tulalip either later this month or in September.


State ranks high in job creation and affordable electricity

The Washington Rountable’s latest update on competitiveness gives the state high marks for job creation and affordable electric power.

However, Benchmarks for a Better Washington pointed out the state’s relatively low marks for being an expensive place to do business that includes low high school graduation rates and low college bachelor’s degrees awarded per capita.

The periodic comparative report is a product of WashACE, the nonprofit partnership of the Association of Washington Business, Washington Roundtable and the Washington Research Council. The study analyses a set of metrics that measure states for innovation, transportation and business climate. Its goal is to help make Washington a top 10 state for quality of life and innovation while better managing costs placed on businesses.

Among other findings were that Washington was a leader in private sector job creation but lagged as one of the nation’s top 10 states for longest commute times, averaging 27.8 minutes in 2016.

Read more or watch a brief video report summarizing the findings.


State to require out-of-state sales tax collections on Oct. 1

Washington State will begin requiring some out-of-state retailers to begin collecting sales taxes by October 1.

The decision stems from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the South Dakota v. Wayfair case in June. It allows states to require out-of-state businesses without a physical presence in those states to collect and submit the tax on sales delivered into their states.

Washington has established a threshold of $100,000 in gross retail sales or 200 transactions to Washington State consumers in the current or previous year. Any out-of-state business that meets either of these thresholds will be required to register and begin collecting Washington State sales tax.

For years, many online companies have bypassed sales tax collections for customers in other states. In the process, they maintained price advantages over brick-and-mortar stores required to collect sales taxes.

Businesses can go through Streamlined Sales Tax’s central registration system to register in all 24-member states (including Washington) simultaneously. There are also Certified Service Providers available to assist with the tax collection and filing process.

If a business has concerns about complying with the Oct. 1 deadline, they can contact DORMarketplaceFairnessWaiverRequest@dor.wa.gov.

Detailed information about Washington’s Marketplace Fairness law and this decision can be found at dor.wa.gov/marketplacefairness.


An update on exemptions to Washington’s Minimum Wage Act

WRA is part of current discussions

By Bruce Beckett, WRA contract lobbyist

Employees covered by Washington’s Minimum Wage Act (MWA) must be provided a minimum wage, overtime for working above forty hours in a seven-day workweek and paid sick leave. The act, though, exempts certain employees from its requirements including employees in executive, administrative and professional roles and outside salespersons.

The exemptions are intended to exempt “white collar” workers who often enjoy more economic security and relative bargaining power than lower wage earners. These terms are defined by the Director of the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). Historically, Washington state has opted to mirror the Federal Labor Standards Act EAP regulations for consistency. All employers are required to meet those standards. Accordingly, it has not been necessary to regularly update Washington’s EAP regulations.

There are two key features to EAP exemption rules:

  • Salary Threshold – The salary threshold is used as a tool to ease administrative and enforcement burdens. In simple terms, the salary threshold is where it is highly unlikely that employees making below that level of earnings will be performing exempt duties. The current federal threshold is $455/week in earnings of $23,660/year.
  • Duties Tests – These are specific descriptions of duties that must be part of a job to be exempt from the minimum wage act (for practical purposes, exempt from the overtime regulations of the MWA). Federal requirements related to the duties tests, which all employers must comply with, were updated in 2004.

During 2016, the federal Department of Labor adopted new EAP exemption regulations that raised the salary threshold from $455/week to $970/week or $50,400/year. Under those federal regulations, most employees paid less than $50,400 per year would have been deemed “non-exempt.” The new regulations, however, were enjoined from taking effect in 2017 because of a lack of analysis and transparency over the impact of the salary threshold to both employers and employees.

In April 2018 the Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) initiated rule-making to update Washington State’ EAP exemptions.

The Washington Retail Association has participated in four stakeholder meetings with the L&I rule writing team. We have also provided three sets of written comments responding to questions on what issues need to be addressed in updated rules and the scope of the issues that should be included in any update.  The Association is currently drafting comments.

Washington Retail Association comments have repeatedly emphasized the following points:

  • L&I needs to proceed carefully and to reach out and educate employers and employees around the state on the potential impacts of any changes to the rules.
  • The rule changes should seek to align with federal regulations to eliminate confusion.
  • There should be no changes to the current salary threshold until the federal DOL revisions are published. It is widely expected that the federal DOL will publish revised regulations regarding exemptions in early 2019 that corrects deficiencies identified in the 2016 rules.

Among its points, WRA has emphasized the need for a careful analysis of economic impacts, impacts on small business, impacts on employees, and extensive outreach across the state on any proposal to change salary thresholds or duties.

Rulemaking, once pegged for completion by the end of this year, is currently on hold pending input on the recent rule options document. No future meetings on the matter are currently scheduled.


WRA diversity statement

It’s essential to have a holistic strategic plan for diversity and inclusion.  We encourage everyone to consider having a plan that connects with diverse people; creates a diverse workforce; fosters an inclusive work environment where different perspectives are valued; partners to share time, talent, and resources with our staff and with communities; and communicates these values with others.

In principle and in practice, we value access to leadership opportunity regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, appearance, geographic location, or professional level.  The association strives to accomplish this by serving as a model where we are working to help our staff, our volunteer leaders, our members, and our community embrace these principles.

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