Board retreat reviews association’s future
By Jan Teague, President/CEO
The Board of Directors took time and our annual retreat to review a five-year financial plan and discuss the future of the association. We are in the middle of a building remodel to add space for our ever-growing Retro program and staff support. The project should be done sometime this fall. WRA owns the building and is using its own cash reserve to pay for the upgrade. In the long run, the Board felt it was a good investment of the association’s money.
At the same time, the Board talked about its involvement in Seattle. As you know, we have been increasing our financial support to give retailers a voice in Seattle politics since the city council has made so many detrimental decisions for retailers these last few years. What the board has realized is that so much of what Seattle does influences other nearby cities and their policies. Seattle even had a version of paid family leave that was extreme. Luckily we got a resolution in the legislature, but it was clear to us that The City Council wants to run the state from Seattle.
The Board has made a commitment to keep our Seattle program and to grow our small business presence in the city. Retailers are a necessary part of the city and one that is most vulnerable to increased business costs. John Engber, who represents us in Seattle as our Director, attended the retreat and briefed the Board on current issues. The day prior to his briefing, the city council, in a 9 to 0 vote, passed an income tax on those residents making over $250,000. The week prior, council members passed a soda tax that makes it cheaper to buy alcohol than drink a soda. When we talk to businesses in Seattle, they are upset and scared for their future. They see these things as coming “fast and furious.” It creates a lot of business instability.
Our Board Treasurer this year is Brad Fitterer. He owns Fitterer’s Furniture in Ellensburg. He has been a great resource to the Board and reported that the association is financially strong and healthy, but the costs for Seattle involvement will need to be addressed. The Board doesn’t plan on taking on any other new programs given our building remodel and financial commitment to develop our voice in Seattle. Having said that, Tammie Hetrick, who leads our services, is always looking for enhanced services for our Retro enrollees. This is an ongoing effort for Retro members that will continue as a business practice for Retro services.
As the retreat wound down, I headed for the airport to fly to New Orleans for my youngest son’s wedding. I am in a very happy place right now. The Board retreat was thoughtful in its deliberations and members thanked me for my 19 years of service. It was my last retreat and one that will hold a special place in my heart.
Retirement is in the not too distant future for me and I will miss the opportunity to lead such a great industry with all of its hard working and wonderful people.
Pence tells D.C. summit: “As retail goes, so goes America”
WRA in attendance at the summit
Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday praised the retail industry’s contributions to the economy saying: “I want to assure you that our president knows as retail goes, so goes America.”
Pence addressed the National Retail Federation’s annual Retail Advocates Summit. In attendance were Mark Johnson, WRA’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, and longtime WRA board member Madelin White, who is being honored as one of America’s Retail Champions for her work as a business owner and lobbyist. The owner of Merle Norman Cosmetics, Wigs and Day Spa in Lacey for more than 40 years, White has earned national recognition for her work in applying her career skills to improve the self-esteem of cancer patients.
Pence addressed a cross section of more than 200 small retailers, national retail chain representatives and state retail association officials. The group today will hold 150 advocacy meetings with members of Congress and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.
In his speech, Pence promised that President Trump would deliver a corporate tax cut and pledged to reduce regulations that slow job growth. Click here for more on Pence’s address to retailers.
WRA board gets update on paid family leave benefit
By Tammie Hetrick, Senior VP of Retail Services
WRA board members who met at their annual summer retreat last week heard an update on plans for statewide paid family and medical leave from a representative of the Employment Security Department.
Nick Streuli, Legislative & Executive Operations Director at ESD, addressed the board on how the program will work, the duration of the benefit and how much quarterly insurance premiums could be depending on the size of the company. Voters approved the program by passing Initiative 1433 last fall.
Under the program, employees will be covered after working 820 hours for the qualifying period. For benefit claims beginning on January 1, 2020, employees would generally be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid medical leave per year or up to 16-weeks of paid family and medical leave per year. For example, an employee earning $56,264 a year could be eligible for $811 in weekly wage payments under the program.
The program is required of companies with 50 or more employees. Contributions to the benefit fund are paid 63 percent by employees and 37 percent by employers. Employers with 49 or less employees can opt into the contribution for financial hiring incentives.
As ESD continues to structure the program, I expect eligible employers will have questions about how the program will work.
L&I posts updates on rules for paid sick and safe leave
Labor and Industries has posted an update in its rulemaking process to implement Initiative 1433, paid family leave, into law.
L&I’s procedure toward adopting rules will include two public hearings, one in Spokane on November 8 and in Tumwater on November 9.
I will be e-mailing out more updates as I receive them.
For the time being, please review the engagement site for specific current rule-making information and let me know if you have concerns. Reach me at 360-200-6452 or email@example.com with questions or concerns.
NRF seeks feedback on wellness regulations, health plans
The National Retail Federation is seeking feedback on retailers’ experiences with federal wellness program regulations and health care plans. NRF intends to share comments anonymously with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is working on revamping wellness regulations.
Comments on wellness regulations should be addressed to Neil Trautwein, NRF’s Vice President of Health Care Policy, at TrautweinN@NRF.com. The text of Trautwein’s full request follows below:
As mentioned during yesterday’s health care call, I took part in an allied employer meeting with Jim Paretti at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Jim – a longtime great friend of the retail community – presently serves as special assistant to the acting chair of EEOC, Vicki Lipnic, who is also a great friend to retail.
The EEOC’s wellness regulations have frustrated employer wellness programs, in contrast to the ACA’s (Affordable Care Act) strong support for participation inducements up to 50% of the health plan value. Jim indicated that revamping the EEOC wellness regulations – either by tying it directly to the ACA provisions or by proposing more employer-friendly regulations consistent with the ACA – is on the future agenda for the Commission. It could easily be the end of the year, though, before the Commission is fully reconstituted with a three-to-two Republican majority.
In preparation for this work, Jim asked that we gather data (if possible) and anecdotes on what effect the EEOC regulation has had on your wellness plan. The comments on the call yesterday focused on reasonable alternative accommodations for wellness activities generally and particularly as regards smoking cessation.
Please share any available data or anecdotes with me by email as soon as possible. I will carefully de-identify your submissions to guard against any special attention from regional or local enforcement.
I also include an NRF-member designed survey on high deductible health plans. I am remiss in getting this to you, so I would appreciate your early attention to this.
(survey link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HealthPlanChoices)
Research Council CEO urges reversal of Governor’s veto of manufacturing tax cut
Washington State manufacturers need the operating tax cut that Gov. Inslee vetoed after the Legislature passed a new state budget, the head of the Washington Research Council believes.
In a recent Seattle Times opinion piece, President and CEO Lew Moore said lower operating costs would make Washington manufacturers more competitive with out-of-state companies that operate at lower costs. Moore called for a “calm reconsideration” of the veto.
An economically healthy manufacturing sector helps all of the state’s economy, Moore wrote. Especially in hard hit rural areas, where unemployment rates are far higher than in Washington cities, Moore reminded readers that for each job created at a healthy manufacturing company, two to eight related support jobs are made possible.
Click here to read Moore’s entire opinion piece.
Retailers foresee record merchandise imports this summer to prepare for holiday season
Retailers expect that U.S. stores could set a record this August for volumes of imported merchandise from overseas. The National Retail Federation began tracking import volumes in the year 2000.
At the pace of imports this year, NRF reports volumes could be up 7.1 percent in the first half of this year compared to 2016. NRF measures import volumes as a rough measure of the overall health of the retail industry.
“We’re expecting retailers to import some of the largest volumes of merchandise ever,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “That’s a good indicator of what could be ahead for consumer demand and retail sales, and it’s a sign that retail is going strong despite what you might read in the headlines.”
In May, the last month of available import volumes, cargo was up 6.2 percent compared to May of last year, NRF reported. It said projected August import volumes could set a new monthly record for the past 17 years.
Click here for more information on NRF’s import expectations.
A new law signed by Gov. Inslee that takes effect in October would work to better identify buildable lands in the state.
IN a recent story, The Lens looked at the potential impact of SB 5254. The story addressed dwindling housing availability that drives up the cost of housing, often a consumer’s biggest expense. The higher that housing costs rise, the less consumers have to spend on other necessities.
Safety tip of the week
Accidents reduce the size of paychecks
Many employers try to find ways to get employees to do their job as safely as possible. An effective way might be to explain that workplace accidents cost employees in their paychecks.
Part of the insurance premium that Labor & Industries charges a company is also passed on to employees in their paychecks. If your business is accident prone, everyone’s take home pay will be affected.
It benefits employees to remain safe in order to keep insurance rates as low as possible. A good safety record also can earn a company accident-free discounts (just like your car insurance).
Lower rates mean that the employee portion of the premium will also go down. Employees who see unsafe work habits should remind their co-workers that accidents cost all employees in smaller paychecks.
Here is a link to an example of how the rate change affects take home pay. The term “experience factor” refers to an insurance calculation that compares a company’s actual injury losses and its expected losses. Insurance expenses rise as an experience factor rises.
Rick Means, WRA’s Safety Specialist, 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.
Save the date for a free business fair
Anyone interested in learning how to start and run a business should consider attended a free business fair set for September 30 at Renton Technical College.
WRA has been a regular attendee at the fair, now in its 20th year.
The fair is a collection of helpful seminars and information booths to help entrepreneurs learn how to start and grow a business while remaining mindful of the potential pitfalls and regulatory requirements to operate legally and successfully.
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.