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WIN Articles for June 7, 2017

Seattle soda tax is disappointing

By Jan Teague, President/CEO

I’m disappointed that Seattle this week approved the nation’s second highest tax on distributors of non-diet sodas and other sweetened drinks.

Distributors are expected to pass the additional expenses on to consumers.

The tax will add about $1.18 to the cost of a 2-liter bottle of soda. Seattle city officials said they want to put the revenues towards healthier eating programs for school children. The city estimates it will initially collect $15 million annually from the tax.

The tax exempts diet sodas but not sweetened coffee drinks.

Retailers including WRA and Teamsters union officials opposed the tax. It’s likely to reduce sales and threaten layoffs and discourage hiring. Before the city council vote this week, members of the public objected to the council singling out one industry to raise the funds and reminded the council that the law, as structured, would hurt poorer consumers the most.

I was disappointed that the city council voted 7 to 1 to approve the 1.75 cents-per-ounce tax on distributors. Councilwoman Lisa Herbold voted against the tax and rightly so. She agrees with us that it unnecessarily punishes the poor and small businesses. She also was left with unanswered questions about how the revenue should be spent and noted that the tax would result in a bigger percentage price increase on sweetened drinks than taxes on marijuana, cigarettes or liquor purchases.

I was also surprised at why the outspoken Councilwoman Kshama Sawant needed to skip the meeting. She probably didn’t want to be connected to a decision that reaches deeper into people’s pockets.


State family leave bill is possible

By Tammie Hetrick, Senior VP of Retail Services

 The business/labor/legislative negotiating team I am part of has scheduled its last meetings for next week that could lead to a bill to allow paid family leave in the state.

Our goal has been to arrive at a bill that will be fair to businesses and labor alike. I’m hopeful that the Legislature will receive a bill to consider before it recesses for the year. Another goal is to ward off any possible separate initiatives that could be far more burdensome and threatening to businesses and jobs.

Several related bills were introduced in the 2017 Legislative session but did not advance to floor votes in the Senate or House of Representatives. The Legislature passed a paid family leave law seven years ago but has never figured out how to pay for it.

We’ve been able to use extra time this year during the two special overtime sessions to get closer to introducing a bill. California, New Jersey and Rhode Island guarantee paid family leave while a New York State law goes into effect next year.


WRA participates in small business forum

By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs

I attended the IRS Small Business Forum in Tukwila on Tuesday.  The annual forum is geared toward associations, local, state, and federal agencies and other organizations such as chambers of commerce.  About 35 people attended the event at the Labor and Industries Office.

Speakers from the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau, the Washington Emergency management Division, and the Department of Labor and Industries addressed the participants.  Topics included cybersecurity, disaster preparedness, tax services and industrial insurance.  Comments focused on impacts on smaller businesses.

The forum concluded with a roundtable discussion from the attendees on the services they provide.

The next event is the Small Business Fair on September 30 from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm at the Renton Community and Technical College.  WRA is on the planning committee and will have a booth at the fair.  The event is free to attend.  Please watch for future announcements.


Conference stresses building supportive work cultures

By Tammie Hetrick, Senior VP of Retail Services

I recently attended a Washington Society of Association Executives conference that featured an excellent presentation on building supportive work cultures.

How we support each other in the workplace has important positive business impacts. It can also motivate employees to perform beyond their own expectations.

We learned that failure to address and foster a supportive work culture often results in high staff turnover, low member retention and can harm the reputation of your association.

At WRA, we post the facets of our office culture on our website. It emphasizes honesty, mutual respect and valuing the contributions of each employee.

There are a few memorable stories I’d like to share from the conference.

The first is what I might call the three word test. In order to promote employee understanding of your culture and work on improving it, managers should occasionally ask employees what three words come to mind when they think of their employer.

The other is a story we discussed about a grocery bagger named Johnny. After talking with a manager about how he liked his job, Johnny was motivated to change how he worked to feel like he was contributing more to the grocery.

Johnny decided to find positive or inspiring quotes, type them up and drop them in each customer’s shopping bag before they paid and left for home. Pretty soon, Johnny had the longest lines of customers waiting for him to bag their groceries to read his free quotes.


WRA co-sponsors second webinar on Seattle scheduling law

WRA co-sponsored a webinar this week with lawyers from the Lane Powell firm to explain Seattle’s new scheduling law that goes into effect on July 1.

The law requires retailers and restaurants with 500 or more employees worldwide to post work schedules two weeks in advance and offer additional hours to existing employees before hiring or face fines for proven violations.

The lawyers covered situations that have come up most frequently in conversations with their Seattle retail clients about the new law.


  • The city will undertake a “soft launch” on July 1 but refrain from imposing fines for violations until January.
  • Employers must project median weekly work hours and whether there will be on-call shifts before making a hire.
  • Employees have the right to request schedule preferences before a schedule is posted.
  • Employers must have bona fide business reasons before turning down a requested scheduling change.
  • Employers have the right to ask for documentation when employees request work schedule changes due to a “major life event” such as an eviction or illness. A major life event can include a conflicting schedule at another job.
  • Employees can turn down shifts that start less than 10 hours before the end of their prior shift, but can give consent to work the same shift.
  • Employees have the right to turn down work requests not included in a posted schedule.
  • If an employer cancels a shift from a posted schedule, they must make a partial payment for lost wages to the employee.
  • Employers must keep records of shift change requests and outcomes, including posted schedules, for three years. Fines for repeated violations can be up to $5,000.

WRA members with questions about the law may contact Tammie Hetrick, Senior VP of Retail Services, at 360-200-6452 or at tammie@retailassociation.org.


WRA sponsors June 13 Seattle chamber meeting on city’s new scheduling law

The Seattle Chamber of Commerce will present a “policy hash” the morning of June 13 for Seattle employers to prepare for the city’s new scheduling ordinance.

The event will be from 8 to 9:30 a.m. at the Microsoft Events Center of the Seattle Metro Chamber, 1301 First Avenue, Suite 1500.

Presenters will cover a variety of aspects about the law including record keeping, exemptions from the law, employee rights and where to get help if you have questions.

WRA members can obtain a registration discount by clicking on this link.  Contact Harry Cheema, at 206-389-7215 with questions.


Washington can learn from Connecticut’s problems, columnist writes

Don Brunell

Don Brunell

Tax and spend at your own peril, warns columnist Don Brunell in The Columbian newspaper.

His piece this week is about how overtaxing and overspending

has been driving businesses and taxpayers out of Connecticut, many to income tax-free Florida.

Brunell, the former head of the Association of Washington Business, reminds readers that Washington State leaders can learn from Connecticut’s budgeting mistakes as they work to approve a new state budget. His message also should resonate in Seattle, where the City Council is considering approval of an income tax on the wealthy.

Connecticut has steadily raised its income tax since it was approved in 1991, which has contributed to a loss in population, Brunell writes.

Click here to read the column.


Taxable retail sales set state record in 2016

Gains in construction and new and used car sales helped the state set a record $145.9 billion in taxable retail sales in 2016.

The narrower retail trade sector increased 6 percent to $63.2 billion in 2016 sales, the Department of Revenue reported this week.

Overall taxable retail sales include sales in retail, construction, manufacturing and other sectors. The retail trade subset includes sales of clothing, furniture, automobiles but excludes industries such as services and construction.

Highlights of last year’s results include:

  • A 14.4 percent gain in construction sales to $28 billion.
  • An 8.7 percent gain in new and used auto sales to $12.9 billion.
  • A 17.3 percent gain in sales from drug and health stores, to $2.6 billion.
  • An 11.9 percent gain in e-commerce and mail order sales, to $2.8 billion.

Click here for more details.

Source: Department of Revenue


Lens explores restoring state tourism funding


Washington State has been without state tourism promotion since the recession wiped out the budget in 2011.

But a bill still pending in the Legislature is offering some hope of restoring tourism  promotion.  Lens, the online news source the Business Institute of Washington,  reviews HB 1123 in a story this week.

The story covers the Legislature’s struggle to identify tourism funding in the midst of its second overtime session to pass a new state budget


New flame retardant regulations in effect July 1

New statewide restrictions on selling children’s products and upholstered furniture with certain flame retardants go into effect on July 1. The regulations affect retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors.

Stores will be prohibited from selling items containing the chemicals of concern after July 1 of this year. Manufacturers were required to notify retailers if their products contained restricted flame retardants by April 1 of this year. If a retailer violates the new law, manufacturers must recall the product and reimburse the retailer or any other purchaser of the product.

Click here to receive regular updates on the Children’s Safe Products Act. For additional questions, contact Tina Schaefer at the Department of Ecology, 360-407-6786 or at tina.schaefer@ecy.wa.gov.

Source: Ecology


New Seattle bag law goes into effect July 1

New Seattle shopping bag requirements passed last year goes into effect on July 1 of this year.

Put simply, the new requirements:

  • Prohibit retailers from providing customers with non-compostable plastic bags that are tinted green or brown, including produce bags. Clear plastic produce bags are acceptable.
  • Allow retailers to provide compostable bags, but they must be certified and labeled as compostable and they must be tinted green or brown.
  • Ban misleading or confusing labels on bags including the terms “biodegradable,” “degradable” and “decomposable.”

Seattle Public Utilities will begin store compliance inspections in August of this year.

For more information on new and existing Seattle shopping bag requirements, click here.

Source: Seattle Public Utilities


Safety tip of the week

Improve hearing in your shop or office

 Concerts, iPods, cell phones and very loud sporting events may all contribute to loss of hearing over time. It’s true for Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials alike.

Natural hearing loss can start about age 40 regardless of other environmental factors.

When working with older employees, it’s possible they may not properly hear the instructions you just shouted across the room. Sometimes certain tones or frequency ranges ‘drop out’ and become inaudible. Ringing in the ears, a condition known as tinnitus, also can make it difficult to hear warning shouts or instructions in a noisy environment.  An unheard warning shout could result in an injury accident.

Some solutions:

  • Make sure that hearing protection is always worn when noise levels are consistently over 85db (WRA members can find a noise level chart here and there are noise apps for your smart phone here).
  • Try to reduce background noise levels as low as possible by shielding noisy equipment.
  • Provide important information visually.
  • Reduce echoing with improved acoustics.
  • Sirens or warning alarms should have alternating frequencies (think of a European police car siren).
  • Provide hands free telephone headsets with adjustable volume switches.
  • Speak clearly.

Technology can help us improve hearing somewhat, but hearing is something that we can’t get back completely once it deteriorates.

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, Ext. 18 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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