WRA celebrates retail partnership with Tumwater-based Alaffia
By Renée Sunde, President/CEO
It was my honor to represent Washington Retail Association this week during an important visit and announcement at the Tumwater manufacturing facility for Alaffia, a global body care company.
Company founder Olowo-n’djo Tchala hosted approximately 40 guests at Alaffia’s 100,000 sq. ft. facility headquartered in Tumwater, Washington. State, county and local elected officials and regional business representatives were joined in a tour of the facility by Acting Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Donald Yamamoto. WRA participated as Yamamoto engaged community and business leaders in a roundtable discussion on promoting trade with Africa.
Tchala announced an exciting new partnership with Walmart to distribute body care products in 3,600 Walmart locations across the country. As a result, Alaffia is expected to add 60 jobs to its current Tumwater payroll of 145 employees, thousands in West Africa, and increase funding for women’s empowerment projects.
Alaffia employees and “gatherers,” mostly women, number more than 14,000 in West Africa. They collect shea nuts, coconuts, herbs and grasses at Alaffia cooperatives in Togo and Ghana and create shea butter, coconut oil, baskets and essence used in Alaffia products. The raw materials are shipped to the Tumwater headquarters and manufacturing plant for refinement, packaging and distribution through the U.S. and 10 countries.
Alaffia’s non-profit empowerment initiatives have resulted in 59,775 trees planted, 34,640 school supply recipients, 8,253 bikes distributed, 25,588 eyeglasses donated, 12 schools constructed, and more than 4,832 babies safely delivered in West Africa.
WRA is grateful to Tchala and his wife, Prairie Rose Hyde, co-founders of Alaffia. We celebrate the company’s impressive growth and its partnership with Walmart that will be instrumental in fostering significant further growth for the company and the retail employees it supports around the world. To learn more about the company, visit www.Alaffia.com.
Carbon fee initiative likely headed to ballot
By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
I attended an Attorney General Citizens’ Advisory Committee meeting this week to learn more about the planned carbon fee initiative, I-1631. WRA has been a long-time member of the CAC.
Panelists who made presentations included Kristin Eberhard, Sightline; Deric Gruen, Front and Centered and Ed Finklea, Northwest Industrial Gas Users. Eberhard and Gruen support the initiative while Finklea had reservations.
In order to qualify for the ballot, I-1631 supporters have to turn in more than 250,000 valid registered voters’ signatures by the end of July. A full text of the initiative can be found on the Secretary of State’s website here.
I-1631 would impose a $15 per metric ton fee on large businesses that produce carbon pollution substances from fossil fuels and electricity sold or used within Washington State. The charge would be when the oil refineries sell the gas or diesel fuel to the wholesalers. According to supporters, this would potentially produce a 15-cent increase per gallon fee in fuel costs. Estimates are that the fee would generate $1 billion.
Washington produces an estimated 80 to 90 million metric tons of carbon monoxide, mostly coming from gas-powered vehicles. Washington State accounts for about .003 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. The fee would become effective in 2020.
The fee would increase $2 per year until our state reached the 2035 greenhouse gas reduction goal. Some industries are exempt from the fee such as aviation manufacturing, steel and aluminum. The funds raised by the fee would be spent on clean air and clean energy investments, clean water and healthy forests, and healthy communities. Voters defeat a similar initiative, I-732, two years ago.
Efforts to pass similar legislation failed during the 2018 Legislative Session. WRA will review I-1631 if it qualifies for the ballot and determine whether to take a position.
It’s a busy time for labor-related bills and laws
By Tammie Hetrick, Chief Operating Officer
There are several updates to report to WRA members on labor-related bills and rulemaking on laws that can affect businesses.
I was in Washington, D.C. last week advocating with the Society for Human Resource Management for more workforce flexibility related to employee benefits. The Workflex in the 21st Century Act has been introduced for consideration in the House of Representatives.
As part of the Advocacy team, we urged Congress members to introduce a similar bill for consideration by the Senate. If approved by Congress, the act would create a single federal framework for providing paid leave rather than the fragmented patchwork of state and local laws now cropping up across the country. The patchwork of requirements is burdensome on retailers with multiple locations and results in different benefits for employees depending upon where they work.
In other labor-related developments, click here.
Legislature raids state savings to cut property taxes
A lingering frustration from the 2018 Legislative session is how lawmakers financed a one-time property tax cut.
Lawmakers raised property taxes last year to help pay for state school funding mandates from the state Supreme Court. In an election year for most state lawmakers this year, against the recommendation of the State Treasurer, they borrowed from the state savings account to pay for a one-time property tax reduction.
Some Legislature observers consider this legal sleight of hand that violates rules for how the state savings account would be built up to compensate for economic slowdowns. This debate is addressed in a YouTube video and blog by Jason Mercier, Director of the Center for Government Reform with the Washington Policy Center.
State Treasurer Duane Davidson warned lawmakers about borrowing from the savings account because it would make it harder to weather another recession. Find his comments here.
Policy Center releases annual Legislature attendance report
The Washington Policy Center has released its latest annual report on how many state legislators missed roll call votes during the session.
Seventy-one of the 147 state legislators missed no votes or 48 percent. That means a slight majority of lawmakers missed at least one of the 549 roll call votes in the House of Representatives and 492 roll calls in the Senate.
The Legislature passed 310 bills after introducing 1,425 during this year’s 60-day session.
There are a variety of reasons that legislators miss votes ranging from civic or professional obligations to legislative negotiations and medical and family emergencies.
Source: Washington Policy Center
WRA seeks businesses to oppose proposed Seattle head tax
The Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle is seeking businesses in the city willing to sign a letter in opposition to a proposed tax based on the size of business payrolls. Washington Retail Association is the organizer of the coalition.
The letter to City Council members notes that the city is considering a tax to address homelessness without a plan to combat the problem. It also notes a lineup of earlier taxes and expenses that Seattle businesses have absorbed in recent years including a higher minimum wage, mandated paid sick and safe time, a secure scheduling ordinance and a paid family and medical leave program.
Rather that Seattle taxing to solve homelessness, the letter calls for regional cooperation with King County government to first write up a plan to address homelessness before imposing another tax.
Those interested in adding their names to the letter are urged to contact Sophia Stanley, Field Director of the coalition, at 206-919-0142 or Sophia@retailassociation.org.
Seattle retail mixer set for April 19
Seattle retailers are invited to a mixer beginning at 6 p.m. on April 19 at The Dane, 8000 15th Avenue N.W. in Ballard.
Those who attend will learn about the Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle, a grassroots lobbying group being organized under the direction of John Engber, a contract lobbyist for the Washington Retail Association. RICS’ mission is to inform Seattle retailers about planned regulations by the Seattle City Council that could affect them and to employ Engber to represent retailers at council meetings.
Those who attend also will be able to meet President/CEO of the Washington Retail Association, Renée Sunde, Chief Operating Officer Tammie Hetrick and Senior VP of Government Affairs, Mark Johnson. WRA is providing complimentary food and drinks.
RSVP/Register by Monday, April 16 here.
Washington State is testing the idea of charging motorists a fee based on how far they drive to replace the current gasoline tax.
One survey shows that 60 percent of motorists oppose the idea of being taxed based on how far they have to drive.
Lens, the online news source of the Business Institute of Washington, carried a recent story reviewing some of the technological wrinkles in the experiment and whether the fee would be a practical replacement for the gasoline tax. Some state officials fear that as vehicles become more fuel-efficient, gasoline tax revenues will drop and result in insufficient funds to maintain and build roads.
Seattle plastic utensil ban starts July 1
Seattle Public Utilities is reminding food service businesses that the use of plastic utensils and plastic straw food service wear will be prohibited starting on July 1 of this year. Violations of the ordinance carry a $250 fine.
Compliant options include durable or compostable utensils, straws and cocktail picks. SPU urges businesses to use up their inventories of plastic utensil and straws before July 1.
Initiative attempt seeks to ban new local soda taxes
A sought-after statewide initiative would ban cities and counties from imposing taxes on sodas and sweetened beverages much like a controversial new tax in Seattle.
The movement Yes! To Affordable Groceries has submitted language for a statewide initiative that would require 259,622 registered votes to sign by July 6 to qualify for the ballot. The American Beverage Association including The Coca-Cola Co. and Pepsico are major donors helping to finance the campaign.
The proposal would not prevent the state from considering such a tax nor would it affect the Seattle soda tax. It would prevent Seattle from increasing its tax, according to reports in Everett and Spokane newspapers.
Safety tip of the week
Be vigilant about forklift safety
A forklift is a necessary tool at some of our members’ workplaces. Just as important is the need to operate this machine safely.
Many employees are injured when forklifts are inadvertently driven off loading docks or fall between docks and an unsecured trailer. Other workers are hurt when they are struck by a forklift or when they fall while standing on elevated pallets or the two iron forks in front of the vehicle. Most incidents also involve property damage, including damage to overhead sprinklers, racking, pipes, walls, and other machinery. You also need to consider type of load, speed, incline and surface when operating a forklift.
Washington Code, WAC 296-863, states that forklift operators are required to be at least 18 years of age, trained and certificated before operating these machines.
Just as pilots do a safety check before taking off, you should also do a safety check at the start of the day, making sure that this equipment is safe for you to use.
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
Sign up for WRA’s free webinars
Washington Retail Association has scheduled a half dozen free webinars starting this month through May.
The next webinar at 10 a.m. on March 28 will cover the basics of conducting regular safety meetings. Those that follow cover a range of topics from recovering after a natural disaster, preparing for workplace violence, how to conduct an accident investigation and improving your company’s computer security.
Click here to review the lineup of topics and to register.
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.