Newsletter April 6, 2023








Legislative Update


Tuesday, April 4, was Fiscal Committee Cutoff, the last day to read in opposite house committee reports from House fiscal committees and Senate Ways & Means and Transportation committees. Just 18 days remain for the 2023 Legislative session, assuming it finishes up on schedule. The WR government affairs team continues to work diligently on several bills of great importance to our members.


HB 1155 Health Data Privacy

House Bill 1155, which relates to health data privacy, continues to be a challenging bill for retailers this session. The bill seeks to protect sensitive healthcare data not currently covered by the federal HIPAA Law (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). As presently written, the legislation is very broad and would unintentionally include many non-sensitive healthcare products and services, such as numerous over-the-counter medications, vitamins, health foods, health-related clothing, devices, and tools.

WR supports consumers having access to and control of their personal data. However, as currently drafted, this bill will be problematic for retailers to know what is and isn’t covered—leaving them exposed to unwarranted lawsuits and legal action.

This bill passed out of committee on 3/22/23 with an extended effective date of one year out, which would set the effective as March 2024 rather than 90 days after adjournment. Helpful per se language was removed from the enforcement aspect and the bill remains in a weakened state.

WR has been meeting with the AG’s team and working with Senator Manka Dhingra to gain further clarity on the bill’s definitions. The Senator plans to add an additional 90 days extending the date to June 2024, to assist small businesses with implementation. WR continues to have significant concerns about the legislation as written and will be sending a letter to the full House today. The bill could potentially be brought up for concurrence as early as Friday.


SB 5352 Concerning vehicular pursuits

Senate Bill 5352 addresses the 2021 legislation HB 1054, which increased the criteria for police pursuits from reasonable suspicion to probable cause that an individual has committed specific crimes before initiating a chase. SB 5352 would allow law enforcement officers to begin a pursuit if they reasonably suspect that an individual in the fleeing vehicle has committed or is currently committing a violent crime, sex offense, vehicular assault, domestic violence, escape, or driving under the influence. The bill also includes amendments that require additional training for law enforcement officers and mandates better communication with local authorities during pursuits to protect bystanders. The bill does not cover retail theft.

The bill has made it out of committee and has become significantly watered down, excluding property crimes. If the bill gets further weakened, law enforcement will likely oppose the bill. It remains unclear whether the bill will make it out of the House. WR supports changes to the bill to include property crimes which continue to plague retailers across the state.


SB 5187 & HB 1140 ORC Task Force Funding – Operating Budget

WR met with the House and the Senate budget writers regarding funding for the Attorney General’s ORC Task Force in anticipation of their budget proposals. We continue to urge for the inclusion of funding for the task force and have testified to that end. The Senate budget included $2.265 million, and the House approved $1.1 million. We will continue supporting full funding of the task force.

Read more

Legislature advances budgets

This week the legislature’s focus is on “all things fiscal.” The House and Senate have been busy working on the Operating, Capital, and Transportation budgets. All three budgets are immune from the normal session cut-offs. Only the Operating Budget—about $70 billion—to keep the state running for the next two years (biennium) must be approved before adjourning April 23.


Both House and Senate fiscal committees have been meeting for long hours to hear and vote on dozens of bills impacting the budgets. Some bills bring in new revenues, while others expend state dollars. The fiscal committees have the most legislators serving on them of all the committees, intended to keep more eyes watching over how Washington’s tax dollars are spent.


At this point, the House and Senate will convene a negotiating group. Formally this group iis called a Conference Committee. The formation of this committee isn’t required but is often the structure most utilized. The majority party will have four representatives, and the minority party will have two. The representatives will haggle over differences between their two proposals and produce an agreed-upon final Operating Budget, preferably consulting the Governor in the process. This massive spending plan will then come before the full House and Senate for an up or down vote. Amendments will not be offered on the floor. The Budget will then proceed to the Governor for his careful review. In Washington State, the Governor has line-item veto authority and can eliminate particular spending provisions. The state fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.


WR is advocating for—and encouraging the legislature to include—funding for the Organized Retail Crime Task Force. The Governor and Senate have each included $2.2 million to bolster the task force with essential staff. The House has recommended $1.1 million. WR and its members support the higher Senate-proposed amount of $2.2 million, and have urged policy makers to include full funding in the final budget.

De minimis benefits crucial for small and medium enterprises

In 2016, the U.S. de minimis threshold, which is the value below which imports are exempt from duties, was increased from $200 to $800. This change has greatly benefited businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), by allowing them to access top-quality products at the lowest possible cost to fulfill their customers' needs. This is especially vital for small manufacturers who import components for assembly processes, as they can create products that are then sold domestically or exported. Small retail businesses also benefit from this policy, as they can import high-quality products at low prices for sale in-store or online.

Besides being exempt from tariffs, importers enjoy additional savings due to the simplified border entry process for de minimis shipments. This process eliminates the need for brokerage services and their associated costs.

The House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee chairman's bill, the Import Security and Fairness Act, has inspired a coalition of opponents, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Express Association of America, National Retail Federation, and others. The coalition is working to preserve the U.S. de minimis statute.

The coalition is interested in hearing testimonials from businesses that have experienced the advantages of the de minimis provision. If you have a positive story to share, please reach out to Mike Mullen at or call (703) 340-7521.

Avoiding legal risks and costs for warehouse employers and operators

Warehouse operations are critical to businesses and consumers, and warehouse employers are committed to safe and healthy workplaces for their employees.

SHB 1762 imposes overlapping warehouse requirements to ensure safe working conditions and provide employee meal and rest breaks. These requirements are already actively enforced by the Department of Labor and Industries. SHB 1762 does not add new protections for employees’ safety, meal, and rest breaks, and only adds new opportunities for third-party lawsuits against warehouse employers. Please reach out to your State Senator and urge opposition to SHB 1762. Take action.

SBA invites WR to address challenges facing retailers at economic summit for Asian Americans

The first White House Economic Summit in Seattle for Asian American and Native Hawaiian Pacific Islanders (AP & NHPI) was held this past week.

This special event sheds light on the rapid growth of the AA & NHPI peoples in Washington state. According to the US Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey, AA & NHPI collectively represent just over 20% of Washington State’s population, making them the largest minority group. Hispanic/Latino, the second largest minority group, comprises 13% of the state’s population. The five fastest-growing Asian populations in Washington from 2010 to 2020 were Chinese, Filipino, Asian Indian, Japanese, and Korean. 

During the Business Track Panel discussion on challenges retailers have been facing, Rose Gundersen, WR’s VP of Operations and Retail Services, highlighted four primary issues, including persistent wage pressure for retail frontline workers despite corporate and tech layoffs, regulatory demands, inflation, and organized retail crime (ORC). ORC is of particular concern as it jeopardizes the safety of both customers and employees.

A Chinese business owner shared their experience in the Seattle International District, indicating her business has lost customers and employees due to rising crime.

The growing population of Asian Americans in Washington highlights the significance of magnifying the voices of small ethnic retailers, as conveyed by those belonging to this community.

Representing the voices of small business owners, especially those owned by minorities, to policymakers is a way to achieve equity and inclusion, which aligns with WR’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) principles. WR is working to develop strategic outreach to ethnic businesses to include their voices in how we approach policy and government affairs.

Small Business Index declines amid weaker economic outlook

According to the latest MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index, small businesses' concerns about inflation remain at record levels, and their view of the economy has weakened slightly. Despite this, the majority of small business owners continue to feel optimistic about their business health and cash flow.

Small business owners seem to be in a wait-and-see mode, with day-to-day operations and future expectations largely unchanged compared to the previous two quarters. The Index score for this quarter is 60.0, a slight drop from the previous quarter's score of 62.1, mainly due to a more pessimistic view of the national economy. The Index score is now closer to early 2021 levels and slightly lower than its post-pandemic peak of 66.8 in Q2 2022.

Inflation remains the top concern for 54% of small business owners, marking the fifth consecutive quarter it has topped the list of challenges. Other issues such as revenue, supply chain disruptions, and rising interest rates are considered secondary concerns.

Long-term perceptions of access to capital have significantly declined, with 49% of small business owners now reporting their current access to capital or loans is good, compared to 54% in Q2 2022 and 67% in Q2 2017.

Although most small businesses see the value in offering health insurance coverage, they often find selecting the right options to be a time-consuming task. A significant majority (89%) of small businesses believe offering employee healthcare is the right thing to do, and 85% agree it helps attract and retain employees. However, 65% find navigating healthcare options for their business to be a burdensome process.

In summary, the MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index has slightly decreased to 60.

Read the U.S. Chamber’s report

Mayor Bruce Harrell proposes $970 million housing levy

Mayor Bruce Harrell proposed a $970 million Housing Levy at the Housing Development Consortium’s 35th Annual Celebration last week. Over 800 affordable housing developers, operators, funders, and community partners from King County attended the event. If the Seattle City Council approves, the levy could be presented to voters for approval in November 2023.

The proposed Housing Levy would support the development of over 3,000 new affordable housing units across the city and stabilize wages for workers providing essential services to low-income residents with the greatest needs. Proceeds from the levy would also make unprecedented investments in operations and maintenance to ensure the long-term safety and sustainability of City-funded affordable housing.

Mayor Harrell highlighted the Housing Levy’s success in providing affordable housing solutions, stating that the new plan would help tackle the housing crisis and prevent homelessness more effectively than ever.

The Housing Levy, a seven-year property tax last approved in 2016, contributes to building affordable housing, maintaining low-income families in their homes, and providing emergency assistance for those experiencing homelessness. Seattle residents have consistently supported the Housing Levy since 1986, with each levy meeting or exceeding its objectives.

Over 16,000 people currently live in homes funded by the Housing Levy. As the existing levy will expire at the end of 2023, Mayor Harrell’s proposal aims to renew and significantly expand this vital resource. The proposed levy would create more than 3,000 new affordable rental and for-sale homes for low-income residents, including seniors, low-wage workers, families with children, and individuals experiencing homelessness. The levy would also maintain essential rental assistance programs and other long-standing priorities that have helped thousands of Seattle families.

Read more

Walmart has a path of opportunity for everyone

Walmart is committed to providing opportunities for individuals at every stage of their careers, with a focus on skills, experiences, and attributes acquired through various means, such as on-the-job experience, military and volunteer service, or education. The company offers a wide range of roles and benefits that enable individuals to reach their potential and pursue purpose-driven careers.

High school students can benefit from part-time roles at Walmart, gaining valuable skills for their future careers. In the United States, approximately 75% of Walmart's salaried store, club, and supply chain management employees began in hourly positions.

College students can gain retail experience through Walmart's expanding Home Office internship program. This program exposes interns to various career areas, such as supply chain, finance, tech, merchandise, and HR. The aim is for most interns to transition to full-time roles at Walmart upon graduation.

The company's new pilot program, College2Career, provides recent college graduates and current students nearing graduation with the opportunity to launch their careers by helping to manage a Walmart store. Participants receive comprehensive training, hands-on experience, and mentorship from company leaders. Top performers are offered the new management position of emerging coach, with a starting wage of at least $65,000 a year.

Read the rest of the article

Yelm Career Connected Job Fair & Hiring Event

A job fair and hiring event will occur in Yelm on May 2, 2023. The event is coordinated and supported by Yelm Community Schools, Yelm Chamber of Commerce, City of Yelm, Pacific Mountain Business to Business, WorkSource Thurston County, and ESD 113's Career Connected Learning Grant. 


There is no cost to participants and participating employers. Tables and chairs are provided to employer representatives, but due to facility limitations, tables will have no access to power. A concession stand will be available throughout the day. 


Read more for event schedule and registration form


King County prosecutors use new unit to crack down on theft suspects

Retail theft is becoming increasingly organized and aggressive, with criminals targeting businesses and individuals for profit. In response, the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office is adopting a new approach to tackle theft in the area.

Prosecuting attorney Leesa Manion has launched the Economic Crimes and Wage Theft Division as part of her administration's policy and practice changes. The division aims to be a resource for law enforcement and improve outcomes for challenging economic crime cases.

Organized retail theft has become a growing problem for businesses in the region. Manion emphasizes that the new division's goal is to hold thieves accountable and protect the business community from harm, particularly small businesses that may be forced to close due to theft.

In February 2023, the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office filed 69 theft or attempted theft charges, 16 of which were related to organized retail theft. Manion notes that by focusing on this type of crime and collaborating with other agencies, they have been able to file more organized retail theft cases.

“In 2022, we filed twice as many organized retail theft cases than we did in 2021. And it’s because we put a focus on that crime; it’s also because we were trading information with the Seattle City Attorney’s Office and others so that we could crack down on this crime in kind of a regional effort,” said Manion.

The Economic Crimes and Wage Theft Division will have a team of attorneys concentrating on organized retail theft, economic crimes, identity theft, fraud, and elder abuse. Additionally, they will address wage theft cases, which often disproportionately impact women, BIPOC, and migrant workers.

Manion hopes that the new division will help victims of wage theft understand the crime and how to report it. The prosecuting attorney plans to collaborate with the Department of Labor and Industries, law enforcement, and labor unions to create a safe environment for reporting wage theft.

Regarding concerns about theft suspects being released from jail, Manion clarifies that her team is committed to holding individuals accountable. She explains that there are alternative methods to ensure people show up for their court dates and emphasizes the importance of bringing necessary accountability to those causing harm in the community.

Get the entire story from Q13 News

Secondhand industry booms with $177 billion in global sales and predicted to double by 2027

The secondhand industry is on the rise, with global sales reaching $177 billion in 2022, a 28% increase from the previous year, according to a report from online thrift marketplace ThredUp Inc. Factors attributed to the growth include surging inflation, the development of curated secondhand offerings by retailers, and increased awareness of sustainable shopping habits. The trend is set to continue, with ThredUp predicting that the secondhand industry will double to $351 billion in global sales by 2027.

ThredUp's co-founder and CEO, James Reinhart, believes that resale is not a passing trend but an increasingly crucial part of brands' sustainability agenda. He said that it is no longer a question of whether brands will be involved in resale, but rather how. By getting behind the continued use of their existing products through resale, fashion companies can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and plastic footprints, while also securing an additional revenue stream.

The rise of secondhand and other recycle business models has been primarily driven by younger generations, particularly Gen Z. According to a survey by GlobalData, 83% of Gen Z respondents said they had already shopped secondhand for clothes or were open to it.

For instance, Shein, a Chinese retailer that has helped supercharge the fast fashion model, launched its Shein Exchange site last year. In March, H&M announced it was launching an online resale platform with ThredUp, stating in recent annual reports that it expects climate-aware consumers to prefer more sustainable products in the future. The potential shift in consumer preferences could be a big hit to future sales or, quite possibly, an opportunity. Whether the rise of secondhand and other circular business models will lead to a reduction in the production of new items or in consumer demand for new goods remains to be seen.

Cultivating relationships is key to safe workplaces

According to a study by Intertek Alchemy, 66% of businesses report that employees fail to follow their safety program while working, and 59% say they don’t have enough time to develop a plan. In other words, the most significant challenges with workplace safety training are time and planning follow-through.

Motivating workers to achieve maximum productivity safely is the crucial duty of management in any organization. The Alchemy study shows that 75% of company leaders believe that boosting compliance with company safety programs would lead to a corresponding increase in productivity.

The development of a workplace’s culture is primarily driven by management. Every day, company leaders send a message to their workers regarding their commitment to safety or lack thereof. Therefore, management must communicate to the workers that safety is a top priority. By fostering a strong connection between workers and management—and investing time and effort to make safety relatable to everyone—management can reap significant benefits.

When employees feel their employers value their safety and team participation, it builds trust in the organization. When workers and management trust each other:

  • Productivity increases
  • Suggestions for improvements and changes are made
  • Workplace injuries occur less frequently and with less severity
  • Employee turnover is reduced

Maintaining a healthy relationship between staff and management is essential for the overall health of any company. Review our resources to help build an effective training program:

Our safety team is available to help members take their safety program from compliance to quality safety practices. Contact us 360-943-9198 x122 or to learn more.

WR diversity statement

WR is committed to the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. We strive to create a safe, welcoming environment in which these principles can thrive.

We value all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, identity, sexual orientation, nationality, or disability, and that is the foundation of our commitment to those we serve.

Washington Retail Staff

Renée Sunde




Rose Gundersen

VP of Operations

& Retail Services



Mark Johnson

Senior VP of Policy & Govt. Affairs



Robert B. Haase

Director of




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