Election results present a mixed bag for retailers
Democrats control both Legislature houses
By Mark Johnson, Senior VP of Public Policy
Tuesday’s record voter turnout produced interesting election results. Please keep in mind that Washington State is an entirely vote-by-mail system. Final results will not be available for some time until all the ballots are counted and the election certified.
Starting with the initiatives that WRA was involved in:
- Yes! To Affordable Groceries – Initiative 1634 easily passed and will now prevent local governments from placing a tax on our food and beverages. WRA supported the initiative and was part of the Yes! coalition.
- Initiative 1631 – Placing a carbon tax on our energy was soundly defeated. This ill-advised measure would have increased costs for all of our energy from gas to electricity – costing consumers and businesses billions of dollars. WRA opposed this initiative and was part of the no campaign.
The congressional races that WRA played in had mixed results:
- In District 8, Dino Rossi was edged out by Kim Shrier.
- Happily, WRA backed candidates Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers 5th District and Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler both appear to have won.
On the state legislative level, pro-retail candidates took a beating. As of this morning, two WRA-backed Senate candidates are trailing – candidate Marty McClendon in the 26th and incumbent Senator Mark Miloscia in the 30th. Two other WRA Senate endorsed candidates are very close with Senator Doug Ericksen, 42nd District, at 50.37% and Senator Joe Fain, 47th District, at 50.34%.
The current split in the State Senate is 26 Democrats and 23 Republicans.
In the State House, pro-retail candidates fared worse. At least seven candidates appear headed for defeat. The current party split in the House is 50 Democrats, 48 Republicans.
In the 5thDistrict both incumbent Paul Graves and returning candidate Chad Magendanz are trailing. In the 10th, WRA backed incumbent Dave Hayes is narrowly losing with 49.76%. In the 28th District, incumbent Dick Muri is behind at 48.55%. Rep. Vincent Buys in the 42nd is trailing narrowly at 49.89%. Retail-friendly candidates Representatives Mark Harmsworth, 44th District, and Mark Hargrove, 47th District, both are down several points.
WRA congratulates all of the apparent winners and looks forward to working with both our federal delegation and state legislature to maintain and improve the retail industry’s business climate.
The midterm results could significantly impact retail
By Renée Sunde, President/CEO
As election day has come and gone, we now wait for possible political outcomes from the results. There were many issues and hot topics for candidates in both major parties leading up to Tuesday’s elections. But, with all the important issues, it’s important to remember that the outcomes could have a big impact on the retail industry and more specifically, on e-commerce.
For instance, with Democrats now in control of the House, they could push back on President Trump’s tariff policies, according to Zak Stambor, who wrote a piece this week for the internet news site, digitalcommerce360.com.
“Such policies have left a wide range of retailers anxious about their supply chains, particularly given the September 2018 announcement of tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese exports, which Trump has said will be increased from 10% to 25% next year,” Stambor wrote.
“The tariffs have led retailers in some cases to notify wholesale buyers of price increases even before the September tariff announcement was official,” Stambor reported. He wrote that many retailers have indicated that these tariffs could have a detrimental effect on their companies, costing jobs and/or impacting customers with higher prices.
Commenting in the same piece, the National Retail Federation’s David French, senior vice president, government relations, said “a pushback is overdue. The next Congress will have to find a way to wrestle control of the tariff issue in order to get control and restrain the president’s ability to wage a trade war. The current Congress hasn’t focused enough on the issue.”
According to Stambor, “as NAFTA has now become the U.S. Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a Democrat-controlled House might also impact the agreement, which includes a few key provisions that will yield key benefits for online retailers.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a statement appealing for cooperation between both major political parties in Congress and between Congress and the President.
“We urge each and every leader to find the middle ground on issues including immigration, infrastructure, and trade,” said Thomas J. Donohoe, President and CEO. “We’re focused on working with both political parties to push for policies that grow the American economy, create good jobs, and advance free enterprise.”
Online sales tax regulations is one area that shouldn’t see action regardless of the election outcomes.
The states, and more specifically Washington, have already taken the lead on this, according to Jason Brewer, executive vice president, communications and state affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association.
“Right now, it appears there is little consensus within Congress as to how to address the online sales tax issue,” Brewer said. “There are many different viewpoints in Congress, so Washington State will continue to lead the effort to figure this out.”
Update on the Seattle waterfront Local Improvement District
By John Engber, Director, Retail Industry Coaltion of Seattle
On January 11, 2019, the S.R. 99/Viaduct closes for three weeks to complete the connections to the new S.R. 99 downtown Seattle tunnel.
After the Viaduct is demolished, work begins on the new Seattle waterfront. But how will Seattle fund it?
The City of Seattle intends to create a new Waterfront Local Improvement District (or “LID”). Property owners within the LID would be assessed on a per square foot basis to raise $200 million for waterfront redevelopment. The LID will be created so long as 60 percent of the property owners (the size of their votes based on their assessment) do not submit “protest letters” expressing opposition to the LID.
So far, more than 50 percent of the property owners have expressed their conditional opposition to the LID creation.
The assessment is not the same for all property owners. Properties closest to the waterfront will pay more, as will hotels. Here is an article that explores some of those details: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/seattle-negotiating-with-downtown-property-owners-over-200-million-tax-for-waterfront-project/
Right now, attorney Jack McCullough is leading negotiations with the City on a wide range of issues, including:
- Protection from cost overruns. Property owners do not want a second tax assessment if the City experiences cost overruns on the waterfront redevelopment.
- Public safety guarantees. Property owners want commitments from the City that it will ensure that the new waterfront park is a safe, attractive place for Seattle families and out-of-town visitors.
- Homeless encampments. Property owners want commitments from the City that the park will not be a new site for homeless camps.
If you own property in the LID – which stretches from Denny Way to Safeco Field and from the waterfront to Interstate 5 – you should seriously consider submitting a letter expressing your conditional opposition to the LID. You should also reach out to Jack McCullough to get looped into his negotiations with the City. Here is his email: Jack@mhseattle.com
Once the LID agreement (a “no-protest” agreement) is reached with the City, it goes to the City Council for approval. The City is hoping to secure Council approval by the end of November.
If the City Council makes meaningful changes to the agreement, property owners might choose to submit their protest letters, killing the LID. We will keep you informed of developments.
Retailers nationally are upbeat about hiring, wage increases
U.S. businesses added 250,000 jobs in October, more than double the gain in September, according to U.S. Labor Department reports. They included retail employees working in stores but exclude corporate headquarters, distribution and call centers.
Average hourly earnings were up 83 cents an hour in October compared to a year ago. The 3.1 percent year-over-year increase in wages was the first time the wage growth rate had topped 3 percent since April of 2009.
Rising wages and the nation’s relatively low 3.7 percent unemployment rate have encouraged retailers nationwide that holiday sales will be strong this year.
“Employment gains across the country are likely to remain strong with unemployment dipping even further,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation. “The dual effects of increased jobs and higher wages sets in motion households’ ability and presumed willingness to spend.”
Costco has won permission to expand its Issaquah headquarters that will nearly double its office space and employment on its main campus.
The 1.2 million square foot expansion will include one nine-story and one 10-story building that will add 4,000 employees to the 5,000 that currently work in Issaquah. Costco is Issaquah’s largest employer, according to a story in the online news site, The Lens.
In the story, Issaquah’s Economic Development and Development Services Director noted that the city not only supports Costco. The discount retailer also supports smaller Issaquah businesses that located there to service Costco’s headquarters.
WRA presents to NW Marine Trade Association
As part of continuing public outreach, WRA Chief Operating Officer Tammie Hetrick recently addressed the Northwest Marine Trade Association regarding current human resource laws and how employers can remain in compliance.
The marine trade association has joined as a partner in WRA’s Retrospective Rating program, through which they could qualify for partial refunds from their workers compensation insurance premiums.
During Hetricks’ presentation, several in the audience asked questions about statewide paid family and medical leave and a human resources manual that the Seattle law firm Lane Powell has prepared for WRA. Employers will begin making payments into the leave program in January, 2019 so that customers can begin making claims in January, 2020.
The addition of the NW Marine Trade Association and others to come will strengthen Retro’s overall financial health and improve worker safety at the member companies.
If you have questions about the latest rounds of new employee benefits, contact Hetrick at 360-200-6452 or email@example.com.
State issues guidelines for importing plants
The state Agriculture Department has produced a two-page guide for retail buyers planning to import plants into Washington.
The guide highlights important plant quarantines that must be met for incoming stock such as grapevines, blueberry plants, barberries and hops. The state hopes to notify buyers who currently are ordering for next spring to avoid unnecessary holds on merchandise during the shipping season.
The specifics are at https://agr.wa.gov/PlantsInsects/PlantQuarantines/PlantQuarantines.aspx
Shopping Center Council seeks input on survey regarding lawsuits
The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) is surveying to learn more about a rise of lawsuits alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act at private businesses that are open to the public.
ICSC says a “cash for compliance” industry has emerged wherein lawyers collect cash settlements as a result of easily-correctable legal compliance infractions that could have been addressed out of court. Typical targets of so-called “drive-by” federal lawsuits might be retailers, hotels, restaurants and commercial and residential real estate.
Safety tip of the week
Push, don’t pull a pallet jack
Pallet jacks are common in the retail industry for moving freight. The sight of one should trigger the memory of a basic rule when it comes to operating a pallet jack.
A person can push almost four times the weight they can pull. That’s why when the choice to push or pull a pallet jack arises, it’s generally safer to push a pallet jack.
Rick Means, WRA’s Safety Specialist, reminds that in moving weight, a worker is strongest pushing with his legs for a foundation. The physics follows the same principle as in lifting; lift using your legs for balance, not your back.
People who get hurt on the job moving weight often ignore the body mechanics involved in moving weight safely.
Using both arms to pull a pallet jack behind you is a recipe for being run into by the pallet if you have to stop suddenly. You also take your body out of its more natural position that can lead to lower back issues. By pushing, a worker will find he or she has better control to steer and maneuver away from obstacles and can stop quicker.
It takes less energy to push a pallet jack compared to pulling it. Ask your employees to spend the day pushing the jack instead of pulling it. They’re sure to notice the difference in energy used by the end of the day.
There are manual and electric pallet jacks. An electric one will operate when you are in the pulling position. In that case, the jack is doing all the moving work as the operator works controls located in the handle.
Here is a handy load calculator that explains how much effort it takes the average person to move a specific load.
WRA employs Rick 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.
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.