Legislative Law Review is on its way
By Renée Sunde, President/CEO
Washington Retail Association has emailed its comprehensive annual legislative Law Review to members this week.
This report captures in detail the outcomes of the scores of bills that were introduced during the 2018 legislative session related to retailers and the industry at large.
In addition, as we have in the past, the association has called out those 30 legislators who backed us 100 percent with their votes. The association and its members across the state count on legislators who understand and support policies that impact retailers, businesses and our state’s economy.
We honor the following legislators who fully backed WRA’s stance on bills and issues this past year:
- Senators Jan Angel, Barbara Bailey, Randi Becker, Sharon Brown, Doug Ericksen, Phil Fortunato, Jim Honeyford, Curtis King, Mike Padden, Mark Schoesler, Tim Sheldon, Shelly Short, Judy Warnick and Linda Wilson.
- Representatives Andrew Barkis, Vincent Buys, Tom Dent, Mary Dye, Dan Griffey, Larry Haler, Dave Hayes, Jeff Holy, Ed Orcutt, Liz Pike, Jay Rodne, Joe Schmick, Drew Stokesbary, Luanne Van Werven, Brandon Vick and Jim Walsh.
Retailers large and small across our state acknowledge these legislators for distinguishing themselves as strong supporters of the retail industry.
The Law Review is exclusive to dues-paying members of WRA. If you do not receive it in your email or wish to receive a postal copy, please contact Jessica Tingle, Executive Administrative Assistant, at 360-846-2447 or at Jessica@retailassociation.org.
State’s unemployment insurance system is sound
By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
I’m very happy to report that Washington State’s unemployment insurance system is on solid ground and one of the best in the county.
That’s the news that came out of last week’s Employment Security Advisory Council meeting that I attended as a council member.
The UI program is funded entirely by employers. That’s unlike the injured workers’program or the new paid family and medical leave program that both are funded by employers and employees.
As the economy continues to thrive, the unemployment rate remains at historic low percentages. This in turn means employers’ tax rates for UI continue to drop. The agency is estimating a .85 percent tax rate by 2020 – the lowest it has ever been. For comparison, in 1986 the rate hit a record 4.03 percent.
Even after the Great Recession, Washington State has one of the healthiest reserves in the country. The reserve is $4.8 billion, which equates to 16.6 months of benefits even if the state stopped taking in taxes. Other states were not as prepared or fortunate when the recession hit. Many UI systems ran out of money and had to borrow from the federal government. Several states are still paying back the borrowed money. To catch up, many states had to increase their tax rates significantly.
While we know someday the economy will slow and businesses will be forced to lay-off workers and even close their doors, I am heartened to know that Washington State is much better prepared to meet this challenge than most other states. It is refreshing to see a state agency doing well and providing a very important service to our employers and their employees in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
Initiative campaign begins to make private contract talks for public employees open to the public
Organizers of Initiative 1608 to require contract talks with public employees to be open to the public visited with Washington Retail Association executives today.
The campaign for signatures to qualify the item for the November election is starting just as Governor Jay Inslee is engaged in private contract discussions with the state’s unionized workforce.
Dann Mead Smith, President of the Washington Policy Center and businessman Craig Williamson met about the issue with Renée Sunde, WRA President/CEO; Mark Johnson, Senior VP of Government Affairs and Tammie Hetrick, WRA’s Chief Operating Officer.
WRA will review the campaign with its Government Affairs Committee to determine whether to endorse the campaign.
Supporters need to submit about 260,000 valid signatures of registered voters by July 5 to qualify the item for the November 6 election. The item would not apply to bargaining sessions with private employers. It would require public collective bargaining agreements to be posted online.
For more information and if you want to collect signatures, the Yes on 1608 website is here.
The Seattle Times today reports that Amazon.com has paused new construction and hiring in Seattle due to a pending tax on large businesses.
As many as 8,000 new hires and 1 million square feet of new downtown office could be on the line pending the outcome of a scheduled City Council vote on a so-called “head tax” later this month. The council sees the tax, based on the payroll size of large companies, as a means to raise funds to combat homelessness.
The head tax would be $500 per year per employee for larger companies doing business in the city. WRA opposes the tax because it would discourage companies from hiring and unlike other worker rights in Seattle, it does not benefit employees. Also, the association believes Seattle’s rapidly-rising revenues allow it to use existing funds to address homelessness.
Mayor Jenny Durkan is quoted as saying she was working to call a meeting between council members and Amazon to try to identify common ground in the midst of the controversial proposal. Times subscribers can click here to read the story.
Source: Seattle Times
Walmart is accepting registrations for its fifth open call to do business with companies that make, source and grow products in the U.S.
The company has committed to purchasing an additional $250 billion in such products by 2023. Companies must register for the June 13 open call to be considered. The event is open to current and potential U.S. suppliers and will be hosted at the Bentonville, Ark. headquarters. It provides an opportunity to meet Walmart buyers and attend workshops to learn about working with Walmart.
A good way to keep up with retail news and trends is to sign up for the National Retail Federation’s free SmartBrief electronic newsletter.
The latest special quarterly issue includes reports on the Amazon-Whole Foods partnership and Target’s plans for its physical stores. NRF issues daily updates in partnership with the business news publisher SmartBrief, which scans news sources including the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and other leading news sources for its updates. The current issue includes other stories regarding Walmart, Kohl’s and Kroger stores, the chain that owns Fred Meyer and Quality Food Centers.
Click here to read the latest update and to sign up.
WRA submits comments on possible changes to overtime rules
Tammie Hetrick, WRA’s Chief Operating Officer, reports that Washington Retail Association has expressed caution about possible overtime pay rules changes being considered by the Department of Labor and Industries.
In short, a change in rules could harm an employee’s exempt status. Such a change could significantly impact an employee’s position within a company and result in a job demotion through no fault of the employer. There is concern among small businesses that it could impact future on-the-job training opportunities for managers because employers would not be able to provide the same flexibility and training as an exempt employee.
L&I’s consideration of changing the rules is at the request of Senator Karen Keiser and Representative Mike Sells, both chairs of their respective labor committees in the state Legislature.
WRA has asked that L&I proceed carefully to avoid unintended consequences. For example, increasing the wage threshold to qualify for overtime pay could remove an employee’s flexibility regarding scheduling, Hetrick pointed out.
Many small businesses already have expressed concerns about impacts to their employees, Hetrick said. She said WRA has asked L&I to provide outreach and education to businesses statewide so that they can comprehend how rules changes would affect their finances. WRA also has recommended that Washington State match federal overtime standards to simplify the regulatory process for retailers.
Hetrick said WRA is actively engaged in this rulemaking process and wants to hear from companies that would feel the most impact if any rules changes occur. Please comment to Hetrick or contact her at email@example.com. Contact L&I for more background on these considerations. Click here to sign up for email updates on the issue.
An estimated $8 billion in trade through Puget Sound ports and 120,000 jobs could feel some effects of possible tariffs being contemplated by President Trump on China, a regional port official has told Congress.
John Wolfe, CEO of the Northwest Seaport Alliance, recently testified about possible tariffs before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.
“Our success as an airport and seaport gateway is inextricably linked to China,” Wolfe told the committee. “We all win when American businesses and entrepreneurs can sell more goods to more people throughout the world.”
While acknowledging that Chinese trade practices are of justifiable concerns to U.S. officials, Wolfe said negotiations, not new tariffs, are the best path to ensuring a fair and level playing field for mutually beneficial trade. Put simply, Wolfe said exports create U.S. jobs while threatening exports would cost jobs.
Click here to read more and watch testimony before the committee.
Source: Northwest Seaport Alliance
Safety tip of the week
Have you seen SAFEME?
The Washington Retail Association offers a free web-based and smartphone app to help employers get first-time and young employees off to a safer start in the working world. A lot of these first-time employees find their opportunities in retail.
SAFEME users can earn basic safety training certificates to augment required safety training from employers. The certificates demonstrate that an entry-level or young worker has a sound understanding of the potential hazards in many different workplaces and how to avoid them. While geared towards retail, the topics are universal to many industries. The lessons include videos and quizzes that demonstrate use of ladders, proper lifting, slips-trips-falls, box knife use and more.
The app is courtesy of a grant from Labor & Industries’ Safety and Health Investment Projects. It is aimed particularly at workers aged 16 to 20 who often sustain workplace injuries due to lack of work experience and preparation. Additional information and resources about this project can be found here.
SAFEMEhas been viewed/downloaded by hundreds of users in every state and embraced by school Career Technical Educators as well as businesses.
Safer employees help themselves and their employers by reducing injuries and workers’ compensation claims. In Washington State, employers and employees contribute toward paying premiums.
WRA Safety Specialist Rick Means is available to members to assist with L&I safety compliance, helping draw up safety plans and suggest topics for safety meetings. Contact him at 360-943-9198 x18, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.