Retail drives the economy
By Jan Teague, President/CEO
Retailers employ more people than any other industry. We also support one in four other jobs. So when you add up those who work in some aspect of retail, the industry is worth understanding and protecting.
Nationwide 13 million non-retail jobs in areas such as finance, insurance, real estate and manufacturing depend on a healthy retail industry. It all adds up to 22 percent of the total Washington State employment.
To give you an example of the level of detail where retailers also have an impact, think about this story of a small business owner with a boutique. She has to travel to various places to buy items and shoot photos. Besides the non-retail jobs that support the industry, this owner is contributing to hotels, restaurants, and photographers in the pursuit of owning a small boutique.
Retail jobs are diverse and include security guards, advertising, marketing, sales management, arts and design workers. Many people start their careers as a part-time sales clerk and work their way up to a store manager while working on obtaining other college-level degrees. Retailers believe the sky is the limit for professional growth in their industry. People make of it what they want.
Nationwide, 40 percent of retail employees work for companies with fewer than 50 employees. The majority, 95 percent, operate at a single location. Retailers in small towns make those towns work. They are vested in their communities and on a daily basis are contributing to such things as fundraising for charities in their communities. They love being the backbone of their community and understand the impact they have every day on the lives of their neighbors.
Retailers not only provide jobs, they often support a community’s revitalization. Seattle itself is a good example of that.
It wasn’t that many years ago when downtown Seattle was not a destination shopping area. Now it is. That revitalization has contributed significantly to the overall health of the city and its tax base.
It’s good to remind elected officials of our industry’s role in society. There are various groups with regulatory ambitions. If rules create a series of small knife cuts, eventually, there is the death of a company.
Do policy makers and elected officials give stronger support to those advocates who would simply take the attitude that another business will quickly take their place? Or, do elected leaders look at these businesses as individual citizens who are vital to the stability of their communities and should be encouraged to succeed?
WRA testifies for Small Business Bill of Rights
By Mark Johnson, Senior VP of Government Affairs
I was proud to testify this week on behalf of The Small Business Bill of Rights, or Senate bill 5230.
If approved by the full Legislature, it would require the Attorney General to work with six regulatory departments to identify rights and protections for small businesses.
The Legislature already has agreed administrative rules can have burdensome impacts on small businesses that cannot afford to hire the staff to track all of the requirements and rules the state enacts. Many are overwhelmed and unprepared to avoid penalties that threaten their livelihoods.
Under the bill, the Attorney General would report back to the Legislature with recommendations after working with the Departments of Agriculture, Ecology, Labor and Industries, Revenue, Employment Security and the State Fire Marshal on the rules and regulations they enforce with small businesses. The goal is to help small business grasp the scope of requirements to better prepare for inspections, audits, site visits and reviews of records.
These six agencies are 60 percent of the state agencies that can inspect businesses. The bill is not asking for new rights, just to assemble information to capture all the rights small business owners must understand and use if necessary. So far, the bill passed the Senate unanimously and now is before the House of Representatives for review and action.
The bill would apply to any business with 250 or fewer employees. State law allows small businesses at least seven calendar days to correct violations before penalties can be imposed.
The bill is a good start toward better informing small businesses of their obligations and improves their chances of growing and improving the overall state economy. By far, most of the businesses in our state are small with many employing fewer than 50 people.
I want to extend special thanks to Senators Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver and Guy Palumbo, D-Snohomish for sponsoring this bill and urge the Legislature to approve it this session.
Car wash dealers concerned about new labor laws
By Tammie Hetrick, Senior VP of Retail Services
I met this week with the Puget Sound Car Wash Association about their growing concerns with new labor laws being approved in Seattle and across the state.
These are environmentally-conscious small businesses operating on relatively narrow profit margins that employ lots of young workers.
Their current concern is Seattle’s new restrictive scheduling law that comes with fines for not locking into work schedules posted two weeks in advance. It also discourages hiring by requiring retailers to offer available extra hours first to existing employees. Watch our testimony raising concerns about proposed rules for Seattle restrictive scheduling.
The concerns of the car wash association are deeper than just scheduling. I also heard that the increase in minimum wage has put a squeeze on cash flow to the point where members are having to do more work with fewer employees. In Seattle, this is worse and one operator is thinking of relocating outside of Seattle city limits. Another pinch point is the state Legislature’s failure to approve a relaxed teen training wage that would make it more affordable for these operators to hire interested young applicants and provide them with basic safety and work skills to help them as they move into other jobs.
These operators introduced a bill this session, HB 1856, asking for a sales and use tax exemption to help with their squeezed finances.
WRA has been monitoring the spread of burdensome pro-labor bills in Seattle and the Legislature and will remain vigilant as a voice for small businesses that must cope with them. WRA, for example, is part of a business association coalition suing to overturn the results of Initiative 1433 including a statewide increase in the minimum wage and requiring paid sick leave. We also have designed an app, SAFEME, to help teach young workers the basic safety skills they need on the job.
I plan to remain in contact with the car wash association as more such cost increases and regulations come on line.
Seattle opens comment period on restrictive scheduling
Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards is taking public comment on the city’s restrictive scheduling law until March 28.
The law goes into effect on July 1 of this year. It requires many Seattle retailers to post work schedules two weeks in advance or face fines. It also requires additional work hours to be assigned to existing employees before new employees can be hired.
The city staff is in the midst of writing rules for how the law will be interpreted and enforced. WRA has expressed concerns about several aspects of the drafted rules to date and believes the ordinance will unduly compromise retail managers without sufficient evidence of a need.
For example, the rules appear to allow employees excessive leeway to excuse themselves from a scheduled shift at the last moment. The rules also appear to allow a worker employed as an independent contractor elsewhere to cite those duties to excuse themselves from a retail shift on short notice.
In general, definitions meant to shed light on interpreting the ordinance also remain vague and subject to misunderstanding.
Read more about the rules here.
There are three ways to react to the draft rules:
- Send e-mail to email@example.com.
- Write to the Office of Labor Standards, 810 Third Ave., Suite 750, Seattle 98104-1627.
House Republican leader issues update on 2017 session
House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox, R-Roy, has issued a clear video update summarizing key legislative achievements and goals for the 2017 session to date.
Wilcox’s take off point for the video is last week’s cutoff deadline for the Senate and House to trade bills approved in each house for consideration by the opposite house. Bills that get sent to the Governor for signature must first be agreed upon by both houses of the Legislature. Adjournment is scheduled April 23.
Wilcox reports on fixes to the Growth Management Act that promise to strengthen the state’s rural economies and the session’s main agenda item: ideas under consideration to fully fund state schools under order of the state Supreme Court.
Please watch the video here.
A review of bills still alive this session
Today marks Day 66 if the 105-day 2017 Legislative Session.
Lawmaker still are two weeks away from needing to take action on policy-related bills in each house, the Senate and House of Representatives. As the process continues, WRA continues testifying and monitoring outcomes for scores of pending bills.
Here’s a summary of key bills:
- WRA’s Tammie Hetrick continues talks to arrive at an agreeable paid family leave bill among SB 5149, SB 5032 and SB 5829.
- HB 1047, a pharmacy bill for collection of unwanted medication, got a hearing but did not come up for a vote of the House.
- HB 1755 has passed the House and is now under consideration in the Senate. It would require negotiators settling injury cases with third parties to keep the employer informed on the progress of talks before a settlement is reached. WRA favors passage.
- HB 1796, requiring companies to make special accommodation for pregnant employees, passed the House and is under consideration in the Senate. WRA is neutral on the bill.
- HB 1054 remains in the House Finance Committee and has not moved, to increase the legal smoking age statewide from 18 to 21. Because the Senate has taken no action on the idea, it remains dormant for the time being. WRA opposes the bill that would reduce business for convenience stores that worry it would impact sales on far more items than just cigarettes.
HB 1376 that would establish a paint recycling program at retailers has not moved out of the House Rules Committee. It is unlikely to get further action.
Latest state revenue report is generally upbeat
The latest monthly state revenue report released this week was generally upbeat.
Revenue collections to the state General Fund came in a $52.5 million for the month period ending March 10. That was 4.5 percent higher than a forecast issued in November.
Overall, since the beginning of the year, revenues to the general fund, $162.7 million, are 2.6 percent higher than what was forecasted in November.
- Total tax payments from the retail sector were up 5.3 percent in the one-month period compared to the same time last year.
- Revenue from auto dealers was running 3.5 percent higher than the same time a year ago.
- All but one retail sector showed increasing tax revenues, an accurate gauge of overall sales. Some of the leading categories included online retail, up 16.8 percent; building materials and garden equipment, up 10.5 percent; drug and health stores, up 9.5 percent; and electronics and appliances, up 8.9 percent.
- The lone faltering retail category for the past month was sporting goods, toys, books and music, which showed a 2.4 percent decline in tax revenues compared to last year.
Click here for further updates.
Source: Economic Revenue Forecast Council
It seems movie theater operators around the state believe they could use a hand to become more competitive with cable tv and the growing in-home video streaming industry.
So far this session, the Senate has passed SB 5161 and sent it to the House for further consideration. It basically would relax current regulations to allow more alcohol consumption in theaters and includes protections and penalties for abuse.
Free retail crime conference next week
The Washington State Organized Retail Crime Alliance (WSORCA) will be hosting its fifth free conference from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 21 at Carco Theatre, 1717 S.E. Maple Valley Highway in Renton.
Mark Johnson, WRA’s Senior VP of Government Affairs, will be among the presenters to review the status of state legislation to address retail crime. WRA sits on the WSORCA board of directors.
Store security personnel and law enforcement officials are encouraged to attend and share intelligence to combat a problem that national retailers estimate amounts to $45 billion in annual losses.
Prosecutors, law enforcement officers, media and other interested parties will make presentations to those who attend. Please RSVP by clicking here. Registration begins at 8 a.m. including breakfast refreshments.
Safety tip of the week
Companies should adopt cell phone use policies
Estimates are that one in 10 drivers is somehow distracted while on the road whether it be from eating, reading, using navigation devices, passenger distraction or cell phone use. For this reason, hand-held cell phone use or texting while driving is illegal in the State of Washington.
Accidents from these distractions can cause time loss for employees, increased insurance rates and leave company vehicles out of commission for extended periods.
If you have company delivery drivers, you need to explain the dangers of cell phone use while driving and that you are taking action by implementing policies that would prohibit handheld devices while operating a company vehicle. Rick Means, WRA’s Safety Specialist, urges companies without cell phone use policies to put them together soon. The National Safety Council (NSC) recommends that those policies apply to all company employees.
Employees should be instructed to make calls before leaving the parking lot or at rest stops, but not while they’re on the road.
Two bills under consideration this legislative session would amend the state’s driving-with-electronics laws to further limit their use. The pending bills would ban drivers from using any electronic device with more than one finger and prohibit holding a cell phone to your ear while driving. This would include a ban on holding a phone to scroll for social media feeds, taking a photo or sending an e-mail.
The NSC has created a series of short videos that answer common questions about cell phone use and driving. On RASI SAFETY TV, there is a playlist of these videos. This would be a great topic at your next safety meeting. Rick suggests showing a few with discussions between each video.
WRA employs Rick to be available to members to help draw up safety plans and suggest topics for safety meetings. Contact him at 360-943-9198, Ext. 18 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Save dates for WRA webinars
It’s not too early to start saving dates for free webinars WRA has begun hosting.
Upcoming topics include:
* March 22, 10 a.m., Learn the special rules for hiring younger workers.
* April 5, 10 a.m., on L&I’s Stay at Work program administered by Retail Association Services, Inc.
* April 19, 10 a.m., on L&I’s Preferred Worker Program, which protects employers from additional injury claims filed by injured workers.
* May 17, 10 a.m., on cyber security.
Register here. Advance the calendar to locate appropriate registration forms.
Twitter can be a useful tool in helping WRA’s followers and others to keep up with developments regarding bills under consideration in the 2017 session.
Many followers of the Legislature don’t have the time to attend hearings or have to wait until the next day for the newspaper to arrive. But by following WRA @waretail on Twitter, we alert you ahead of time to key testimony offered by our lobbyists and then follow with live tweets during key hearings and selected voting. We also link you to the full text of bills.
Please follow us on Twitter for retail-related developments throughout the year.
Save money with WRA’s discount shipping partner
FedEx and UPS have higher shipping rates this year.
WRA extends an offer to save money on shipping small packages by singing up with Partnership, WRA’s discount shipping partner.
To enroll and receive exclusive discounts on select FedEx® services, visit PartnerShip.com/99WRA. For more information, email sales@PartnerShip.com or call 800-599-2902.
Learn more about how the 2017 rate increases will affect your shipping costs by downloading a free research paper at PartnerShip.com/RateIncrease.
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.