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WIN Articles for January 10, 2018

WRA meets with Seattle Mayor Durkan

By Mark Johnson, Senior VP Government Affairs

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (center) meets with John Engber, Director of the Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle and WRA President/CEO Renée Sunde in Seattle.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan (center) meets with John Engber, Director of the Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle and WRA President/CEO Renée Sunde in Seattle.

Monday night Renée Sunde, President/CEO, John Engber, Director, Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle, and I had the pleasure of attending newly-elected Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s inauguration celebration.

Mayor Durkan has appointed a business liaison and created a small business council.  WRA applauds both of these decisions.  We are excited to work with her and her administration on making Seattle a great place for retailers and their customers.

WRA understands that policy coming out of Seattle often expands to the state level.  The Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle – RICS – is WRA’s effort to involve itself in the policies developed by Seattle.  If you would like to learn more about RICS, contact John Engber at 206-919-0136 or john.engber@retailassociation.org.


Inslee carbon tax is top priority in State of the State address

By Renée Sunde, President/CEO

 In his State of the State address this week, Gov. Jay Inslee opened his remarks by touting Washington’s strong economy as one of the best for doing business and our historically low unemployment rate.  His praise of the Paid Family Leave legislation was described as a best in class model and example of how we have invested in the people of Washington State.

Inslee challenged legislators to complete the job of fully funding public schools and passing a tax on sources of carbon emissions.

The state is under a Supreme Court mandate to fully fund schools this year. Inslee’s critics disagree that taxing companies with significant carbon emissions is the best way to help pay for schools.

The Governor called on Democrats and Republicans to find common ground; leaving valuable educational and environmental legacies for the generations to follow.   Rather than focusing on a short session he challenged legislators to work on building a long legacy.  “Let’s get to work together,” he said Tuesday on the second day of the 2018 session.

Democrats now hold slight seat advantages in the state Senate and House. Republicans have criticized Inslee for proposing a new tax to raise money for schools.

Sen John Braun, the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said a carbon tax would financially burden businesses and citizens alike and he doubted there were enough votes in the Legislature to approve it.  He further criticized Inslee’s budget proposal for balancing the next state budget by borrowing from state savings. The Legislature will amend Inslee’s proposal before returning it to him for approval.

Republican Senator Dan Kristiansen of Snohomish County termed the carbon tax as a “tax rich, policy poor” idea during a radio interview this week. As taxes discourage and reduce carbon emissions, revenues decrease, he explained.

“As it (revenue) disappears, what will you tax next?” he asked.

In a wide-ranging address, Inslee cited Washington companies such as Microsoft, Boeing and Amazon. com as examples of leaving lasting legacies in the business world. He challenged the Legislature to leave legacies on social and educational causes he supports including immigration, workplaces free of sexual harassment, equal access to the Internet and offering more apprenticeship programs as alternatives to four-year college degrees.


WRA expresses concerns about pay equity to Legislature committee

By Tammie Hetrick, Chief Operating Officer

 WRA assigned a representative to this week’s House Labor and Workplace Standards committee to express concerns about a gender pay equity bill, HB 1506.

 The bill calls for achieving equal pay by gender for employees doing similar jobs.

But aspects of the bill trouble WRA and other opponents. WRA’s contract lobbyist, Bruce Beckett, attended the hearing to express some of those concerns.

WRA is concerned the bill as written will lead to expensive and spurious lawsuits. It inadequately addresses differences in the times and places that jobs are performed.

Beckett has urged the Legislature to reduce how long companies should go back to address pay inequities between genders from four years to three years of work history. WRA also would prefer that the Legislature adopt a pre-emption clause prohibiting municipalities throughout the state from adopting more stringent requirements than those included in the state bill.

If you questions about the bill or need a status update, contact Beckett at 360-480-5258 or bbeckett@thebeckettgroup.org. Also, watch for updates in this newsletter as the bill advances through the committee hearing process in the Senate.


Thurston County leaders praise retail in annual State of the Community report

Elected leaders from throughout Thurston County praised the value of building their retail cores today during the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce annual State of the Community luncheon in Olympia.

WRA President/CEO Renée Sunde and Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Mark Johnson attended the event to hear reports from the mayors of Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and Yelm and the chairman of the Thurston County Board of Commissioners. Each of the elected officials described the value of retail generating tax revenues toward services needed to accommodate growing populations.

Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder described his city’s growing retail base and sales tax generation as the backbone of the annual operating budget that pays for city services. It will remain important, he said, in helping Lacey grow services, particularly parks and recreation, for its expanding population.

Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby complimented Sunde for her work on the city’s first economic development strategy when she worked as Olympia’s Economic Development Director. New retail development in downtown will be crucial to serving thousands of new residents expected to move downtown in the next 20 years, Selby said.

Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet said recruiting a new Toyota dealership resulted in neighboring city infrastructure improvements along Interstate 5. He added that new retail revenues would contribute to growing the city’s parks and recreational amenities to keep pace with expected population growth.

Yelm Mayor J.W. Foster said the city’s population has doubled in the past decade due, in part, to its affordability compared to more urban communities in the South Sound region. He urged businesses to consider Yelm’s affordability advantage to locate business that can generate revenues to provide services to its growing population.

New retailers also could help Thurston County, which Commission Chair Bud Blake said needs to raise funds for a new county courthouse and to balance budgets squeezed by state funding reductions and unfunded mandates from government.


WRA continues to inform and shape new rules impacting business

 The New Year brings new operating rules and in many cases added costs for businesses across the state including many regulations originated in Seattle.

The Puget Sound Business Journal recently outlined several new regulations that are new this year.

There’s a new tax on sugary drinks in Seattle that went into effect this month. Businesses across the state began offering one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. As of January 1, larger retailers in Seattle officially became liable if they did not post work schedules at least two weeks in advance and forgo hiring until after extending additional hours to existing employees. Violations start with fines of $500.

In another outcome inspired by Seattle, the statewide minimum wage increased to $11.50 on January 1.

WRA has been monitoring plans for these regulatory changes and others months before they became known to Washington State retailers. Because the momentum for these new labor laws originated in Seattle, we also established the Retail Coalition of Seattle and opened a Seattle office with two staff members committed to providing Seattle businesses with a voice before the City Council casts votes.

Providing feedback from our local business community regarding the impacts of proposed legislation is key to informed policy making.

WRA’s involvement in Seattle and Olympia on behalf of retailers doesn’t end after laws are approved. Our lobbyists continue to be involved in the critical rulemaking process when government staff determines how laws and regulations will be implemented.

Our lobbying team now is at work at the capitol this first week of the 2018 legislative session. A key area of focus is House Bill 1506 that would require gender pay equity of businesses across the state.

To contact our team of Olympia lobbyists, reach President/CEO Renée Sunde at  360-200-6450 or Rsunde@retailassociation.org or Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Mark Johnson at 360-943-0667 or mark.johnson@retailassociation.org . In Seattle, contact John Engber, Director of the Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle, at 206-919-0136 or john.engber@retailassociation.org.


Transformed by training, technology

By Terry Hospecger, Director Business Development

Advanced training, education or know-how is becoming a required ticket to the 21st-century workplace.

This could mean fewer retail workers but an increased pay scale for the trained.  In the future, there could be fewer entry-level jobs and more pressure to perform.

What can the Washington Retail Association do for our members to help them navigate through these changing times?

Large companies such as Walmart are investing in building retail management certifications by giving grants for training.  This is being done with a grant from the Walmart Foundation to Chicago’s employment department.

Washington Retail Association is working with Labor & Industries in the state.  We have received a grant and developed a free safety training App called SafeMe.  This App allows people entering the workforce to take a safety class using their phone, take a test and earn a certification.  This certification can become part of a resume that could be especially helpful for the first time job seeker.

Stay tuned as we watch the changes in the retail industry and listen to our members to develop partnerships with other National Retail Federation partners.  We want to be your go-to retail experts by making essential information available to all members.

Let me know what you think or contact me if you have questions about our current lineup of services or other ideas we might consider. Contact me at terry@wrasi.com.




Lens examines whether Amazon will expand here or elsewhere2018-01-10_Lens examines whether Amazon will expand here or elsewhere

Seattle-based Amazon.com made news last year by announcing it was considering other states besides Washington for a 50,000-employee expansion and second headquarters.

The announcement has sparked debate about whether Washington State’s policies are sufficiently supportive of businesses and whether Seattle or other cities in the state can recruit Amazon and keep it from major hiring out-of-state.

Lens, the online news source of the Business Institute of Washington, carries a news story this week exploring the question and speculating on the state’s chances of retaining the jobs. Click here to read it.


Safety tip of the week

Is your Accident Prevention Program (APP) current?

All employers in Washington State are required to create a written Accident Prevention Program (APP).  Many businesses regard their APP as the cornerstone of their overall safety program.

In order to meet written program and other APP requirements businesses will need to:

  • Look around to identify workplace hazards that could hurt employees.
  • Find and apply ways to reduce or eliminate hazards.
  • Provide a detailed safety orientation to employees so they understand the possible hazards of their particular job and how to work safely.

In addition to APP requirements, other health & safety program requirements may apply to your business depending on the activities and hazards in your workplace.

If you do not have an APP, you better get one going real soon, as OSHA inspectors have this item high on their checklist. WRA has a basic template available in the RASI Safety Library to help you get started and Rick Means, WRA’s Safety Specialist, is available to help you fine tune it.

If you have a current APP but it is a few years old, take some time to review it and see if it is still meeting the needs of your company.  You most likely will find some things have changed and need to be updated.

The beginning of the New Year is a good time to be paying attention to some of these details that were put on the back burner during last holiday season.

Rick is available to members to help draw up safety plans and suggest topics for safety meetings. Contact him at 360.943.9198 x18, or rick.means@retailassociationservices.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.

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