Retailers feel impacts no matter where they are
By Jan Teague, President/CEO
Retailers have been very worried about the idea of an import tax on goods and the cool relationship that President Trump is developing with China. Retailers are highly dependent on goods from other countries. Any slowing of deliveries or changes in costs that retailers did not expect will certainly impact their bottom line, the markets, and product availability for consumers.
Yesterday, the National Retail Federation released a statement supporting the repeal of Obamacare. I noticed they are concerned about the idea that health care offered by an employer would be considered income and taxed. It’s not in the current draft but has been talked about. Taxing ideas like that can discourage people from taking the benefit and further disrupt market stability.
Retailers are not only feeling the pressures from policies coming out of Congress and the President, they have state and local governments coming up with new ideas at every turn. Companies such as Amazon and Microsoft have kept Seattle flush and have helped retailers in the area pay their bills. But other areas of the state have not been so lucky. I worry about big cities like Seattle creating havoc beyond its borders thinking it is setting standards for the entire state.
In fact, I read that some leaders in the state Legislature are considering having a Rural Caucus to give a stronger voice to vulnerable areas of the state. I think this is a great idea.
For a number of years, I have advocated the plight of the retailers in eastern Washington and rural areas where every retailer matters to the stability of the community. Until you live in these communities, it is hard to think of these retailers as local people who have started a small business. They are part of the local community with their families and friends trading with each other. Survival here is not easy and there is no Amazon or Microsoft to create jobs.
I have often thought that we need a breather from new regulation. It would be nice to have government take a break. There are so many unpredictable moving parts in these governments that make running any business seem impossible.
I do admire the strength and capacity of our members to keep going. I also understand why they band together to have their trade group, the Washington Retail Association, work on their behalf. It’s a valuable service and one that I hope all of our members find important.
Senate passes four bills to curb retail crime
By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President Government Affairs
that all address organized retail theft.
WRA supports all four bills and has testified on their behalf. We would like to thank Senators Mike Padden and Steve O’Ban for their sponsorship and support.
These bills will help stem the rising tide of organized retail theft in Washington State. The National Retail Federation estimates that more than $45 billion is lost to theft nationally each year.
These bills will give law enforcement, prosecutors and loss prevention officers the necessary tools to combat ORT. WRA encourages the House and Governor to act favorably on these three important bills.
Retail crime conference set for March 21 in Renton
The Washington State Organized Retail Crime Alliance (WSORCA) will be hostings 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.
Seattle mayor proposes tax on sweetened drinks
Up to 9 new taxes could be collected in Ed Murray’s first term
WRA is keeping an eye on Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s proposal to impose a 2-cents-per-ounce tax on distributors of certain sodas and energy drinks.
Murray proposed the idea during his State of the City address last month.
Not only would customers feel the impact of the tax at the cash register. A similar law threatens jobs in Philadelphia.
The soda tax is but one of several new expenses Seattle retailers have faced in the first term of Murray, who will seek re-election later this year. The Seattle Times reports 9 new city taxes will have been approved or proposed in Murray’s first term.
Such new financial and administrative burdens being brought online in Seattle have prompted WRA to respond with beefed up engagements with the City Council, which would have to approve a new tax on soft drinks.
The soda tax would be on distributors of sweetened drinks. Murray said it would exempt drinks such as 100 percent fruit juice, diet beverages, in-store prepared coffee and infant formula, among other examples. He said the estimated $16 million in new annual revenues would be applied to city school expenses.
A Seattle Times report about Murray’s quest to raise new taxes is here.
Sources: Seattle Times, Associated Press
House passes important workers’ compensation bill
By Tammie Hetrick, Senior VP of Retail Services
The House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill last week that is important to keeping employers informed of costs with certain Washington State workers’ compensation claims.
By a 97 to 0 vote, the House passed HB 1755 and sent it on to the Senate for what I hope will be an approval as well.
In short, the bill requires Labor & Industries to provide companies with the status of settlement negotiations if an employee is involved in an accident with another person who does not work for the same company. An example would be a driver who gets into an accident with another motorist.
Right now, without approval of the bill, companies are getting surprised with settlements sometimes far deficient of what they expect and their Labor and Industries premiums go up. They are entitled to no updates on settlement negotiations that might help them better prepare for any increased costs they may incur.
The bill does not allow such companies to become party to the settlement negotiations. Regardless, it is an important step toward preparing companies with pending cases to better prepare for outcomes. I will also continue working with the Senate to move its companion bill, SB 5670 that includes identical reforms.
Before the bills were introduced, I worked with L&I officials to make sure they were comfortable with the language. L&I agreed that the current settlement process is flawed and needs to be improved. I would like to thank House members for their strong support of this adjustment and encourage the Senate to act as well.
Update on key WRA bills alive this session
Several bills of interest to retailers remain in play today, Day 59 of the current 105-day session.
By the end of today, lawmakers will have passed a deadline for the Senate and House to take final action on bills before sharing them with the opposite house for possible further action. Bills approved by both houses go to the Governor in hopes of gaining a signature into law.
Today, International Women’s Day, will be marked by consideration of equal pay bills expected to be among the last orders of business with floor debate in the House. The galleries will be packed with women wearing red.
Besides other bills mentioned elsewhere in this newsletter, here is a rundown of the status of other key bills WRA is tracking. The status is subject to last-minute change and was accurate as of this writing.
*SB 5149 would require Employment Security to provide family leave benefits. WRA is working to find a responsible solution that benefits workers but is not burdensome to business. The bill was heard before a Senate committee.
*HB 1047 would establish a voluntary take-back program for unwanted prescription drugs. WRA has been neutral on the bill. The bill has had a hearing before a Senate committee.
*HB 1302 would increase penalties for certain wage violations. WRA opposes the bill as an undue financial hardship on otherwise reputable businesses.
*SB 5836 would require employers to pay men and women the same amount if they were working identical jobs. The bill has not been discussed in a public hearing.
*HB 1796 to provide reasonable pregnancy accommodations for pregnant wonmen. The bill unanimously passed the House and has gone to the Senate for possible future action.
*SB 5286 would prohibit a town or city to enact an ordinance to regulate rental for a commercial property. The bill is before the House this week after the Senate passed it last week. WRA supports the bill.
*HB 1054 would increase the legal smoking age in the state from 18 to 21.
The bill awaits a possible vote. WRA opposes the bill because it would cause more lost sales in addition to cigarette and send business out-of-state or to competing tribal casinos.
Home Depot is hiring with a streamlined application
Spring is the home improvement industry’s peak hiring season including Home Depot’s campaign to make some 80,000 hires in coming weeks.
The company has streamlined its online application process that now takes an estimated 15 minutes to complete.
The current application process is time-consuming, slow and expensive for many small businesses that cannot afford it. Lens, the online news source, explains attempts to streamline the process and avoid needless overregulation on small business. The Senate has passed the bill and sent it to the House of Representatives for further action.
Click here to read the story.
Safety tip of the week
Required employee workplace posters
There are several agencies that require you to display posters at work. The agencies make them available for free.
These posters are for employees and cover subjects including safety, employment rights and benefits.
Look in the lower right-hand corner of workplace posters to find a date stamp that shows whether they are current. Retail Association Services has gathered the complete list of posters that should be on display, with links to further information and the dates the poster were issued.
Click here to learn more including how to obtain the posters.
It’s best not to delay if you’re not current. When Labor & Industries compliance officers come calling, they’ll check to see whether required posters are on display. Violations can be accompanied with fines. Click here for more on this requirement.
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 360-200-6454, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Save dates for WRA webinars
It’s not too early to start saving dates for free webinars WRA will be hosting beginning on March 15.
* March 15, 10 a.m., learn about WRA’s SafeMe app, a safety course that benefits younger, entry-level employees.
* March 22, 10a .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 March, April or May to locate 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.