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WIN Articles for November 8, 2017

Four WRA-endorsed candidates win election to the State Legislature

By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs

Four WRA-endorsed candidates won election to the State Legislature following Tuesday’s general election.

In the 7th District, which includes Stevens, Spokane, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, and Ferry Counties, appointed incumbent Senator Shelly Short and appointed incumbent Representative Jacquelin Maycumber were victorious in their bids to return to Olympia.  In the 31st District, which includes portions of both King and Pierce Counties and the cities of Auburn, Enumclaw, Bonney Lake, Lake Tapps, Buckley, Edgewood , Sumner, Wilkeson, South Prairie, and Carbonado, appointed incumbent Senator Phil Fortunato and appointed incumbent Representative Morgan Irwin won election and will be returning to Olympia in January 2018.

Unfortunately, WRA-endorsed candidate Ms. Jinyoung Lee Englund trailed her opponent Ms. Manka Dhingra in early returns for the 45th Legislative District.  The 45th encompasses the cities of Kirkland, Duvall, Woodinville, Redmond, and Sammamish and parts of King County.  They are running to succeed former Senator Andy Hill who passed away while serving his term.  During the 2017 Legislative Session, his position was held by former State Senator and now 8th District Congressional Candidate Dino Rossi.

Because the Senate is currently controlled by the Majority Coalition Caucus with a one-vote majority,  if Dhingra wins,  the Senate will be under Democrat leadership.  The most likely Democrat Leader will be Senator Sharon Nelson of Maury Island.  The majority party elects their leadership following the certification of the election.

Being that the 45th District election was to fill the unexpired term of Senator Hill, which ends December 31, 2018, there will again be an election next November to determine who will serve a full four-year term.  As a swing district, this will again be a hotly contested race as it will likely decide control of the Senate for the 2019 Session that is a budget year.

WRA congratulates all of the candidates on their willingness to run and serve in the legislature.  We know this is a tremendous investment of time and a sacrifice by being away from their families and occupations.  We look forward to working with the eventual winners on ensuring Washington State is a great place for retailers to thrive and be successful.


Business group to meet monthly about paid family leave

By Tammie Hetrick, Chief Operating Officer

 I met this week with a business group to talk about the state’s current effort to write rules for the upcoming statewide paid family and medical leave program.

The group decided to meet monthly to follow developments of the rulemaking in preparation for January 2019, when premiums will start coming due from employers and employees.

The program allows companies to waive the state-funded plan and contribute to their own independent family and/or medical leave programs. I’m interested in hearing from companies that might want to be waived from the state program and participate on a business workgroup for rulemaking.

Please contact me either at 360-200-6452 or at tammie@retailassociation.org to talk more about this option.

Our first Paid Family Leave Advisory Committee meeting identified three top priority issues to address in rules prior to the January 1, 2019 premium payment collections:

  • How premiums will be collected
  • How to be waived from the state program and still comply with the law
  • How union collective bargaining agreements impact company participation in the state program

Employment Security and the advisory committee hope to complete rulemaking on these issues by June of next year. Please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions about the paid family and medical leave law set to take effect in January of 2020.


Seattle starts direct labor law investigations

Probes can begin without employee complaints

 Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards has begun direct investigations for compliance from retailers to a host of labor laws without the need of a complaint from workers.

OLS outlined its reasoning in a recent news release.

The City Council in recent months has approved a host of new labor rights but also has been receiving internal employee complaints. The news release notes that inspectors are checking compliance with minimum wage and other labor standards including worker scheduling.

The announcement includes links to frequently asked questions and help for employers and workers alike.

Meanwhile, members of WRA or the Retail Industry Coalition of Seattle (RICS) who have questions about the stepped-up auditing process can contact John Engber, RICS Director, at john.engber@retailassociation.org  or at 206-850-5517.


Seattle mayor opposes new tax on businesses

Seattle Mayor and former councilman Tim Burgess is working to defeat a proposed new tax on certain businesses before he leaves office this year.

The so-called head tax would charge businesses $100 a year for each full-time employee for employers with more than $5 million a year in gross receipts. City officials estimate the tax would raise $24 million a year to combat growing homelessness in Seattle.

Burgess, however, would prefer the council consider a tax on customers of short-term rentals such as Airbnb.

“Seattle already has the highest business taxes in the state,” the mayor told The Seattle Times. “I don’t engage in anti-business rhetoric. I love jobs.”

Those concerned with a head tax fear it would discourage business growth in Seattle and lead to higher prices for consumers. The head tax is among the considerations in the council’s current budget adoption discussions.

Opportunity Washington also took a look at the issue.


Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Super Saturday.  It is all overwhelming! 

By Terry Hopsecger, Director Business Development

As the retail industry transforms and consolidates, the holiday season becomes the best time to boost your annual bottom line.  Many retailers need to find savings to offset holiday consumer spending, which at times is unpredictable.

One of the biggest expenses a company will pay is workers’ compensation premiums.  The Washington Retail Association offers one of the few ways in Washington State that employers can recoup some of the dollars paid in premiums. It’s by enrolling in Labor & Industries’ Group Retrospective Rating program.  WRA offers this program through its subsidiary, Retail Association Services.

We offer bold services to reduce taxes and free up resources.  In a nutshell, group workers’ compensation premiums are pooled; if premiums exceed claim costs for the group, we share refunds with our enrollees.

Remember the refund is the reward for program membership. Lowering claims exposure and reducing the experience factor will affect the workers’ compensation premiums that you pay each quarter. This program continues to have a positive financial impact on our members’ bottom lines.

 The program has been very successful in Washington.  We administer a very robust safety program and offer aggressive pro-active claims management.  Washington Retail Group’s Retrospective Rating program is the most successful retail program in the state.  Our goal is to make each member a top performer in the program.

Please contact me at 360-200-6453 or terry@wrasi.com to review your Labor & Industries account and work out a plan together. It only takes a day or two to learn if you’re qualified to join.


Forbes lists possible factors on holiday shopping

Retailers report they are optimistic about holiday shopping this year, but they recognize various factors could help or hurt sales.

Forbes magazine outlines some of those factors in a recent issue. It outlines three big shopping trends this holiday season:

  • The shopping season has already begun. A new survey found that 30 percent of shoppers will buy for the holidays between Halloween and Thanksgiving.
  • For the first time ever, 59 percent of consumers plan to shop online, edging out stores.
  • Clothing appears to be the most common item on holiday shopping lists, followed by electronics and toys. The most anticipated gifts are expected to be Hasbro NERF guns, Nintendo Switch, Apple Air Pods and the Sony PlayStation VR.

The article notes that consumer confidence is high and incomes are growing. The pending tax cut plan before Congress could boost consumer confidence still higher if Congress acts to pass a bill.

The article also reviews a few sales projections from different sources. Click here to read it.

Source: Forbes magazine


Higher NYC minimum wage brings automation along with higher pay

Erin Shannon’s Washington Policy Center blog this week includes a thought-provoking reminder of the hazards associated with spiking minimum wages.

Now that New York City’s $15 an hour minimum wage took effect last year, the pace of hiring at fast-food establishments has been cut in half, according to the Labor Department. Former workers are starting to be replaced by automation, report Shannon, Director of the Center for Small Business and Labor Reform.

It’s not that NYC fast-food establishments are closing. Shannon reports that they’re rapidly increasing in number. It’s just that companies and their suppliers are finding that machines are cheaper than employees in the long run.

A New York City Shake and Bake now features only kiosk ordering. A few employees remain to help shoppers navigate the computerized ordering.

A supplier to fast-food chains also has discovered machinery that peels onions, dices tomatoes and cuts carrots, Shannon reports.  This allows food suppliers to reduce their costs to restaurants.

Employment Security in Washington State recently conducted a meeting where officials reported that retail employees in sales roles are among the most threatened employees from automation in coming years.  This trend has raised the stakes for retail employees to seek retraining to become more comfortable using computers and has opened more technology career opportunities.

Click here to read Shannon’s entire blog report.

Source: Washington Policy Center


Child Support Division changes income withholding procedure

To comply with new federal requirements, the state Division of Child Support will change how it reports income withholding starting in December of this year.

DCS has been issuing income withholding per employee or non-custodial parent. The federal standard, however, requires that income withholding be issued per case, not per employee. So, the state will begin phasing in the new procedure in December where it applies.

The division expects most employers will not have trouble adjusting because:

  • More than 70 percent of parents have only one case.
  • The change will be phased in.
  • Multi-state employers are familiar with the new procedure because it already is in effect in most other states.
  • DCS will offer webinars for employers to explain the changes and answer questions. Information about these webinars will be made available on the Employer page of the DCS website.

Click here to read more about the new policy.

Source: Department of Social and Health Services


Safety tip of the week

Safety-related workplace adjustments

 In order to maintain your balance, your body goes through a complex combination of muscle strength, visual inputs, inner ear receptors that in turn send signals to your nerves, muscles, tendons and ligaments to orient you in relation to other objects.  The brain takes all of the inputs and enables you to respond to the environment you are in.

As we age, our receptors can become dull and slow the information ‘highways’ in our body. This can impair balance and lead to falls.  To help employees maintain balance in certain work situations, employers should:

  • Paint stair edges yellow or white so they are more visible.
  • Make sure ladders have handrails to promote balance.
  • Maintain good housekeeping including making sure floors are clear of obstructions for employees and customers alike.
  • Clearly define any changes in floor elevation by marking them in a different color.  Handrails in such areas are also a big help.

No matter what age, a slip or trip can cause an employee to lose their balance and fall. RASI SafetyTV has some good videos for your safety meeting.

Additional information on the nuances of the aging workforce can be found on the RASI website.  These tips will benefit your entire workforce, helping to reduce injuries as well as potential injuries to your customers.

 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 rick.means@retailassociationservices.com.


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.

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