Proposed “head tax” another reminder of the need for WRA’s Seattle business coalition
By Renée Sunde, President/CEO
In 2017, WRA established and began growing a coalition of Seattle businesses known as the Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle (RICS). The RICS team led by John Engber of John Engber & Associates symbolizes the association’s need to be nimble and responsive to the cities around Washington that are contemplating laws or regulations that will affect retailers.
The main goals of the Seattle coalition are to amplify the voice of retail on critical issues and to increase the clout of retail in City politics.
The debates over proposed legislation to tax business have only heightened over the past year amid a host of new labor laws and taxes that already have been imposed.. These have included a $15-an-hour minimum wage, paid sick leave and mandates on how to schedule employees. The sugary beverage tax of 1.75 cents-per-ounce along with the recently proposed “head tax” are the latest in this series of examples. These policies weigh on retailers, especially small businesses, discourage hiring and threaten the livelihoods of many.
The RICS effort has so far joined together approximately 120 coalition members committed to providing a voice for local retailers who understand the impact of council decisions. We will officially launch the RICS effort at a business mixer tomorrow starting at 6 p.m. at The Dane restaurant, 8000 15th Avenue N.W.
At a recent public hearing about the head tax, small business owners spoke out about feeling overwhelmed by the expense and volume of new labor-based regulations approved by the City Council. Importantly, they voiced feeling left out of the formulation of these ideas by the City, often finding themselves in a reactionary position to laws rushed through by council without meaningful input from the business community. Watch a KING 5 TV news account of the hearing here.
The council is scheduled to vote on the head tax on May 14. But today, less than a month before the ordinance could be approved, the business community is challenged to comment with any credibility because a draft has yet to be shared publicly. The ordinance would impose an annual fee per employee on Seattle businesses. Council members say they want the funds to address and reduce Seattle’s growing homelessness problem.
Although sympathetic, Seattle business owners disagree that a head tax is a smart solution. It would, they say, place still more financial burden on their bottom line and weaken the city’s economy and local competitiveness.
It’s important that businesses stay engaged and is all the more reason for the Retail Association to continue growing our coalition. Please stop by The Dane tomorrow and meet our team. We’re eager to understand the opportunities and challenges facing your business in Seattle.
WRA seeks design firm for Association rebrand
Washington Retail Association has issued a request for proposals for design firms to bid on a comprehensive rebranding of the organization.
The aim is creation and selection of a refreshed and consistent brand for all communications coming from the association including a new logo, comprehensive design package and refresh to our association’s website. The new brand will help build on the association’s core values and capture the essence of a forward-thinking identity and mission. The association’s brand was last updated over 10 years ago.
Interested firms are asked to submit digital responses to the request by 5 p.m. PST on April 20, 2018. Please return all responses to Jocelyn McCabe, Jocelyn@mccabepr.com. Please find the request for proposals here.
The association has conducted personal interviews with key WRA stakeholders and has circulated a member survey to provide the selected firm with important feedback regarding how the association’s resources and image need to evolve. Interviews with the most qualified bidders will be conducted the week of April 30-May 4 to determine which firm will be awarded the contract.
WRA expects the project to be completed by the end of this year.
Established in 1987, the Olympia-based WRA represents a broad array of more than 3,500 storefronts across the state and is Washington State’s exclusive advocacy organization for the retail industry on legislative and regulatory issues on the federal, state and local level. It also operates the grassroots Retail Industry Coalition in Seattle.
By Mark Johnson, Senior VP of Government Affairs
Washington Retail Association’s Board of Directors has endorsed the Yes! to Affordable Groceries initiative campaign currently underway.
Ballot Measure 1634 would prohibit local governments from imposing new taxes on everyday groceries and necessities such as meat and poultry, fruits and vegetables, bread, milk, cheese and beverages. It would exempt Seattle, which already has a suguary beverage tax of 1.75 cents-per-ounce in place.
Organizers need to collect 259,622 signatures of registered state voters by July 6 to place Initiative 1634 on the fall ballot. WRA will help in the signature campaign.
A tax on food is regressive and hits the poorest food customers the hardest. It is also a burden on small businesses who lose customers to neighboring communities where such a tax is not being collected.
Such possible taxes would only heap new burdens on the poorest of Washingtonians. A new report by the Economic Opportunity Institute found that cities around the state already depend more heavily on taxes from people least able to pay. One need look no further than Seattle to see the ill effects of its tax on sugared drinks. Numerous small businesses have been outspoken about the hardship from the 1.75 cents-per-ounce tax the City Council imposed on sweetened drinks. Other communities such as Spokane and Tacoma have been wary of a tax on food and after consideration rejected the idea.
The current robust economy has boosted many local governments with new new revenue from increased property values, more jobs and steadily increasing sales tax revenues. It’s time to show other communities desirous of copying Seattle to pause to consider the damage that the sugary drinks tax has had on Seattle. Without voter approval of I-1634, local governments could impose arbitrary taxes on food items. The pain from it would be felt the greatest by the poor who already struggle to pay bills in cities where the cost of living has been rising out of control for many.
WRA urges voters to sign up in support of I-1634 so that it will be placed on the November ballot. Click here to get updates and more information on this initiative campaign.
Latest national retail sales up 5 percent from a year ago
National retail sales finished up 5 percent in March compared to the same time last year and up 4.5 percent in the first three months of the year, the U.S. Census Bureau reports.
Sales are up because of plentiful jobs with rising wages, increasing property values, smart use of credit and strong consumer confidence, said Jack Kleinhenz, Chief Economist for the National Retail Federation.
NRF expects nationwide retail sales to finish the year up 3.8 percent to 4.4 percent.
Kleinhenz reported that the highest percentage sales gains year-over-year were with online retailers, up 7.6 percent; general merchandise stores, up 6.3 percent; and clothing and accessories stores, up 6.1 percent. Click here for further details.
Source: National Retail Federation
State releases positive signs for the Washington economy
Washington State leads the nation in personal income growth while initial claims for jobless benefits dropped to a new all-time low, the Economic Revenue Forecast Council reported on Tuesday.
For the week ending April 7, an estimated 5,700 people made initial claims for unemployment, the lowest on record in the series that dates back to 1987. Claims have fallen 65 percent since the peak in early 2009.
The personal income growth rate of 4.8 percent in Washington State was the highest among the states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of Commerce reported.
The state retail sector also has been healthy of late. Commerce reported retail trade earnings in Washington have increased 15.3 percent compared with 2.9 percent nationally.
However, tax revenues to the state general fund finished at $40.4 million, or 3.1 percent below expectations for the one-month period ending April 10. Collections for that period were affected by a mid-March change in the Department of Revenue tax reporting system. During the change, there was a one-time extension of the due date for monthly tax returns, which moved some revenue out of March collection figures into April. Click here to read the entire report.
Source: Economic Revenue Forecast Council
Updates from the Workers’ Compensation advisory committee
Chief Operating Officer Tammie Hetrick attended a meeting last week of the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Committee on which she serves.
Members heard an update from the Finance Committee, on which Hetrick serves, regarding L&I computer systems, Vocational Rehabilitation Services and Opioid Usage.
- News that Labor & Industries is considering purchase of reinsurance and catastrophic insurance to protect the benefit fund in case of a disaster during peak working hours.
- L&I reported the replacement of its computer system will take four years to implement and cost a few hundred million dollars.
- An update on vocational rehabilitation and the Vocational Recovery Project. L&I is studying guidelines to promote worker engagement to determine a return to work. Hetrick expressed concerns that the vocational process did not have follow through with the employer as a priority in the return-to -work process.
- A report documented a marked reduction in claims to obtain opioid drugs. It shows less than one percent of injured workers making claims for opioid drugs, a reduction from a 5 percent baseline four years ago.
If you have questions or concerns about these or other workers’ compensation issues, contact Tammie at 360-200-6452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free webinar tomorrow about workplace violence
Washington Retail Association will host a free webinar at 10:30 a.m. (PT) tomorrow to address how to prepare for possible workplace violence.
As a business owner or employee, you should be asking:
- Does your store have security equipment? Is it operating properly?
- Is there enough lighting around your store?
- How can you become a good witness for law enforcement?
- How can great customer service prevent violence?
- How can you develop a partnership with your local law enforcement?
Amy Stull of the Olympia Police Department will cover all of this ground and more during her 45-minute presentation. She brings more than 12 years experience teaching crime prevention strategies to businesses and neighbors.
Go to https://rasi.adobeconnect.com/pwv/ to join the webinar
AG issues bilingual flyers to combat sexual harassment
Attorney General Bob Ferguson on Tuesday issued a free, downloadable flyer to educate workplaces on how to address sexual harassment on the job.
The flyer, in English and Spanish, defines types of sexual harassment, requirements for employers and steps employees can take if they experience sexual harassment.
Click here to download the flyer.
More warnings about how a China trade war could hurt Washington State
A feared trade war with China would be especially tough on Washington State exports by Boeing and farmers, writes Don Brunell, retired President of the Association of Washington Business.
Instead of mutual threats to impose tariffs by the United States and China, the nations should meet to negotiate differences over China’s alleged theft of intellectual property and its trade imbalance with the U.S., writes Brunell in a Spokesman-Review opinion piece. The Seattle Times also has a similar commentary this week.
Brunell notes that Washington State is the nation’s third-largest exporter with more than half the containers leaving Puget Sound headed to China. He reports that the Port of Seattle estimates that 40 percent of jobs statewide are tied at least indirectly to overseas trade.
In a commentary last week, WRA President/CEO Renée Sunde reported that she had signed a business coalition letter to Congress to share industry concerns regarding a possible trade war with China. The letter was signed by retailers, farmers, manufacturers, tech companies, importers and exporters. It warned that tariffs are, in effect, regressive taxes that consumers confront in higher prices and fewer jobs.
Safety tip of the week
Include family in disaster preparedness
In past articles we ‘ve addressed business preparedness for earthquakes, flooding, etc. Now we want to move on to personal preparedness.
If a severe disaster were to happen, as a business owner you will already be plenty busy worrying about how to get back up and running as soon as possible. But don’t forget that you need to also have a plan for your family and to be personally prepared the best that you can, so that once they are OK, you can get back to the challenges of operating your business.
The plan would be similar to your business plan, just focused on the home front:
- Mitigate: What can you do to make your personal environment safer?
- Communicate: How will you communicate with loved ones? Do you have an outside-the-area contact set up?
- Prepare: What are the supplies you need and where will you store them?
- Don’t forget to arrange for those with special needs in your family; seniors, infants/children and pets.
RASI SAFETY TV has some great videos on how to get your family ready to recover from a disaster. Our Retro members can access more information in the Safety Library in the Emergency Preparedness section. Please take some time to review your current plan and update it as needed.
Remember that failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
WRA employs Rick Means as a Safety Specialist who is available to members to help draw up safety plans and suggest topics for safety meetings. Contact him at 360-943.9198 x18, or email@example.com.
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.