By Renée Sunde, President/CEO
Washington Retail Association is supporting the Yes! to Affordable Groceries Initiative this year, or I-1634.
This is a movement that will help protect both retailers and customers alike. If approved in the fall elections, it would prohibit food taxes such as Seattle’s sweetened beverage tax that has driven up the price of juices, teas, coffee and soda.
Grocers already operate on relatively thin margins. The temptation by local governments to identify new revenue streams by taxing groceries may have unintended consequences by imposing financial burdens on retailers and customers alike.
The biggest concern is that taxing groceries may hurt people in poverty the most. At a time when our local communities are working hard to support our most vulnerable citizens, this tax seems counterintuitive. But it also puts our local retailers under additional pressure after already adjusting to rising minimum wages and various labor-related policies that inevitably drive up prices for the consumer. This is particularly important along Washington State’s southern border with Oregon, where there are no sales taxes. Anything that encourages Washington residents to shop in Oregon to save on sales taxes has the potential to hurt our state and threaten retail jobs here at home.
In accompanying stories in this newsletter, you’ll read about how grocers in Vancouver are organizing in support of I-1634.
Opposition to raising food taxes is not limited to Washington State. The Washington Policy Center reports on successful opposition legislation in California, Arizona and Michigan that prevents local governments from imposing grocery taxes.
Please join us in supporting I-1634 so that retailers and consumers in communities around the state will not have to deal with the threat of higher prices and expenses for their groceries.
Clark County grocers support the anti-tax I-1634
Clark County grocers who neighbor sales-tax-free Oregon have come out in support of the Yes! to Affordable Groceries Initiative, or I-1634.
During a recent rally in Vancouver, businesses reported they already are squeezed by rising costs of store space, labor and ingredients. One grocer cited a doubling in the cost of eggs this year.
Coupled with costs of new labor-related rights tied to wages and employee leave time, merchants along the Oregon border say they no longer want to live under the threat of taxes such as Seattle’s sweetened beverage tax. They report they already lost a portion of their potential business to Oregon, where there is no sales tax.
Read more in the Vancouver Columbian.
States begin to ban local food taxes
Opposition to local governments banning discriminatory food taxes isn’t limited to Washington State’s Initiative 1634.
Jason Mercier’s Washington Policy Center blog reports on other opposition movements in California, Arizona, Michigan and Oregon.
The Washington State initiative is in reaction to a sweetened beverage tax in Seattle that has resulted in higher juice, tea, coffee and diet soda prices. Voter approval of I-1634 would prohibit other local governments from identifying food items as new revenue streams via taxes.
Read the blog here.
WRA announces primary endorsements
Members of the Washington Retail Action Council PAC board have announced endorsements for state offices to be voted upon in the Aug. 7 primary. The final election is November 6.
For state Senate races, WRA endorses:
- Rep. Jeff Holy, R, for the open District 6 Senate seat
- Incumbent Sen. Sharon Brown, R, in the 8th District
- Incumbent Sen. Jim Honeyford, R, in the 15th District
- Marty McClendon, R, for the open District 26 Senate seat
- Incumbent Sen. Mark Miloscia, R, in District 30
- Incumbent Sen. Phil Fortunato, R, in District 31
- Incumbent Sen. Tim Sheldon, D, in District 35
- Incumbent Sen. Doug Ericksen, R, in District 42
- Incumbent Sen. Joe Fain, R, for the 47th District seat
- Challenger and former state Sen. Rodney Tom, D, for the District 48 Senate seat
In races for the House of Representatives, WRA endorses incumbents:
- Rep. JT Wilcox, Rep. Andrew Barkis in District 2
- Reps. Matt Shea, R, and Bob McCaslin, R, in District 4
- Rep. Paul Graves, R, and former state Rep. Chad Magendanz, R, for the open seat in District 5.
- Rep. Mike Volz in District 6
- Reps. Jacquelin Maycumber, R, and Joel Kretz, R, in District 7
- Rep. Brad Klippert, R, in District 8
- Rep. Mary Dye, R, and Rep. Joe Schmick, R in District 9
- Rep. Dave Hayes, R, in District 10
- Rep. Mike Steele, R, in District 12
- Rep. Tom Dent, R, in District 13
- Rep. Bruce Chandler, R, and David Taylor, R, in District 15
- Rep. Bill Jenkin, R, in District 16
- Rep. Paul Harris, R, and Rep. Vicki Kraft, R, in District 17
- Rep. Brandon Vick, R, in District 18
- Rep. Jim Walsh, R, in District 19
- Rep. Richard DeBolt, R, Rep. Ed Orcutt in District 20
- Reps. Jesse Young, R, and Michelle Caldier, R, in District 26
- Rep. Dick Muri, R, and challenger Maia Espinoza, in District 28
- Challenger and former state Rep. Linda Kochmar, R, in District 30
- Rep. Morgan Irwin, R, Rep. Drew Stokesbary, in District 31
- Rep. Drew MacEwen, R, in District 35
- Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R, in District 39
- Rep. Vincent Buys, R, and Rep. Luanne Van Werven, R, in District 42
- Rep. Mark Harmsworth, R, in District 45
- Rep. Mark Hargrove, R, in District 47.
WRA determines its endorsements primarily based on issue-oriented candidate interviews and voting records. The fundamental criterion relates to the trust WRA puts in candidates committed to support the health and growth of the retail industry. Included among the endorsements are legislators who voted 100 percent with WRA’s preferences during the 2018 Legislative Session.
WRA will announce another round of endorsements leading to the November general election.
Employment Security upgrades customer service
By Mark Johnson, Senior VP of Government Affairs
The Employment Security Department has embarked on a campaign to improve its customer service both for workers and employers. Julie Lord, ESD staff, gave a presentation to the Employment Security Advisory Council (ESAC) last week, on which I serve.
There have been complaints that the wait times to file a claim electronically or by phone have been too long. Each month workers file approximately 67,000 claims for unemployment compensation. Roughly 67 percent of those claims are filed electronically. Additionally, about 6,200 employers contact ESD per month.
First and foremost ESD has committed to hiring 30 new call center workers bringing the total number to 142. The new employees will help answer phones in a timely manner and guide claimants through the process and help get them to the right staff.
We applaud ESD’s efforts to improve their customer service so that workers can get the help they need and employers can get answers to their questions in a reasonable amount of time. We will know if efforts have been successful when the peak season rolls around that begins October/November as the construction industry slows. At that time of year, many construction workers can’t find employment until the spring.
In the State of Washington, laid-off workers through no fault of their own can receive up to 26 weeks of unemployment compensation. The amount of compensation depends on what the worker used to make. The maximum weekly amount is approximately $700. Unemployment benefits are entirely paid for by employer taxes. Washington State has the healthiest UI trust fund in the country with many months of reserves.
By Chad Pearson, Business Outreach, Employment Security Department
Using standard job search sites to fill your open positions can be difficult, expensive and often they don’t provide the results you need. Even the free online advertising boards are a mixed bag. What can you do?
WorkSourceWA.com – the smart way to look for talent
Try WorkSourceWA.com as your hiring solution. You’ll find more than 150,000 resumes – from entry level to upper management. Post your positions at no cost and use state-of-the-art technology to search for candidates.
Then visit the special website about the retail industry.
Washington Retail Association and WorkSourceWA.com have partnered to create this spotlight page to encourage career seekers to explore the retail industry. We know that retail is the training ground for America’s workforce, and we put tools online to help job seekers:
- Understand it
- Find your open jobs and
- Apply with a click of a button
The WorkSource “clicks and bricks” model offers even more help with hiring. WorkSource offers what other online sites can’t. In addition to clicks on a website, we offer bricks-and-mortar WorkSource centers statewide. At no additional cost, business services teams stand ready to:
- Help you find candidates
- Hold hiring events and job fairs for you
- Screen your applicants and connect you to qualified candidates
Check out WorkSourceWA.com and start posting your jobs today before all the good candidates go to your competitors.
WRA explains labor laws, promotes safety app
WRA’s Chief Operating Officer Tammie Hetrick addressed members of the Olympia Downtown Alliance last week about new labor laws and the free safety app, SAFEME.
The meeting was one of several stops that Hetrick plans to make around the state to update retailers about new legal requirements and WRA’s safety promotion efforts.
Some of the new laws about which retailers should be aware include paid sick and safe leave, gender pay equality, domestic violence protection, sexual harassment protection and paid family and medical leave.
Hetrick also explained how the app can complement safety training on the job including during employee orientations.
Hetrick has additional outreach scheduled over the next several months to talk about human resource updates and our retro/safety programs in communities throughout the state.
Though Spokane failed in its bid to attract a second Amazon headquarters in addition to Seattle, it still became part of the online company’s rapid expansion.
Amazon has announced it will build a fulfillment warehouse in Spokane expected to initially employ 1,500 with the hope of attracting other business to the city as a result.
The Lens, the online news source of the Business Institute of Washington, reports that Spokane officials are hoping for an “Amazon effect” of attracting still more jobs after the 2019 opening of the fulfillment center, where incoming orders will be packaged and sent out for delivery.
Read more about this story.
Safety tip of the week
Protect your employees’ hearing
Hearing loss – with implications on communication, employment opportunities, job performance, injury-risk, depression, and anxiety – places a significant burden on society. Occupational hearing loss represents a substantial portion of all hearing impairments and is nearly always permanent. It is also nearly always preventable. Reducing worker exposure to hazardous noise is a sound investment.
A safe level of sound that a person can be exposed to for long periods of time is measured at 85dB. If you are recording an exposure limit value greater than this, hearing protection in the form of ear plugs or ear muffs should be made available to all staff members.
There are many different types of hearing protection from which you can choose. Make sure to choose ear protection your employees will feel comfortable using. You’ll want to identify protection your employees will want to use.
Additional Information can be found at:
OSHA article – here.
CDC article – here.
L&I training packet – here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.