Newsletter February 23, 2023







WR Directors meet with policy makers in Olympia

The Washington Retail Association hosted its WR Board of Directors at the State Capitol this past week. The winter meeting of WR Board members is held annually during Washington’s Legislative session, allowing members to engage policy makers on the issues that matter most to retailers.

The board is comprised of a strategic group of leaders representing Washington-based and multi-state retailers. The meeting included the induction of three new members to the board: Arta Baharmast, GM of Westfield South Center; Brenda Snyder, Lead Director, State Government Affairs for CVS Pharmacy and Jennifer Kurrie, Senior Director of Local and State Government Affairs for Walgreens. See a list of WR Board of Directors.

The director’s meeting hosted at the historic “Castle” in the South Capitol neighborhood of Olympia included important annual board business and strategic face-to-face conversations with key legislators throughout the day. Priority topics for the association include public safety issues, retail theft and organized retail crime, data privacy, packaging and extended producer responsibility (aka WRAP Act) and access to return to work programs. The meeting allowed members to discuss these priority issues with a broad range of policy makers.

Joining the meeting to review legislative priorities were seasoned veteran legislators Representative Tim Ormsby (D-District 3) and Senator Christine Rolfes (D-District 23). Representative Ormsby serves as Chair of Appropriations, and Senator Rolfes chairs Ways & Means. The board also welcomed several first-year legislators to Olympia this year, including Representatives Stephanie Bernard (R-District 8), Clyde Shavers (D-District 10), Sam Low (R-District 39), and Bryan Sandlin (R-District 15. Members shared top legislative priorities and learned about key priorities important to each of these policy makers.

The WR Board of Directors meeting wrapped up on a high note with evening festivities. The well-attended Legislative Retail Reception was hosted in partnership with our trusted partners at Washington Business Properties Association (WBPA) and ICSC. Approximately 20 legislators joined the reception, along with retailers, WR Board members and staff, and WBPA and ICSC representatives.

Legislative Update

Today marks the 46th day of the 105-day session. As of today, legislators have filed 2,008 bills. Friday, Feb 17, was the “cutoff,” or deadline for bills to pass out of their policy committees and be read into the record on the floor in their House of origin, except House Fiscal Committees, Transportation, Appropriations, Finance, and Senate Ways & Means and Transportation committees. Those bills must be read into the record by the end of day tomorrow, February 24.

WR’s policy and government affairs team are continuing to engage on bills impacting retail. Notable bills:

HB 1155 aims to regulate the privacy of health data concerning its collection, sharing, and sale. WR has significant concerns about the bill in its current form due to its overly broad scope, which could hinder access to low-cost healthcare, a key legislative objective in recent years. The excessively broad restrictions and requirements, such as those related to geofencing, consent, and deletion obligations, would create an unequal playing field. The substitute bill passed in the House Committee on Civil Rights & Judiciary and now awaits action by the full House.

HB 1363 & HB 1586/SB 5533. HB 1363 concerns vehicle pursuits by law enforcement if there is reasonable suspicion that a person in the vehicle has committed or is committing a crime. HB 1586 and SB 5533 provide for the establishment of a work group study on the subject of vehicle pursuits. These revised provisions to the current laws will help make the public safer, protect the community, and assist in efforts to apprehend retail thieves and members of organized retail crime syndicates. HB 1363 had a public hearing in the House Committee on Transportation earlier this week, and HB 1586 is scheduled for the executive session in House Appropriations tomorrow, Feb 24, and SB 5533 is scheduled for a vote in Ways & Means today. WR supports these bills as a package and will continue to testify to their merits.

SB 5056 Increases penalties for habitual and repeat offenders, requiring a person found beyond a reasonable doubt to be a habitual property offender and sentenced with an additional 24 months. This bill is awaiting action by the full Senate. WR gives its full support to this bill.

SB 5160 would increase the punishments for retail crimes that involve multiple accomplices, with increased penalties for cumulative values involving multiple thefts over 180 days from one or more businesses. If the same criminals stole goods in several counties, each county could prosecute based on the cumulated rate. WR strongly supports this bill and thanks Sen. Nikki Torres (R-15-Pasco) for introducing this legislation. This bill is awaiting action by the full Senate.

HB 1131 would enact the Packaging Extended Producer Responsibility—the WRAP Act—and create a beverage container reimbursement (BCR) program. WR continues working with stakeholders to define “producer” and share comments on improving the BCR program. This bill is scheduled for executive session in the House Committee on Appropriations at 9:00am today, February 23. WR supports the voluntary nature of the takeback sites, but the bill’s language remains a work in progress.

SB 5368, which WR drafted and strongly supports, would allow injured workers to return to light-duty work through approved non-profit organizations if no light-duty work is available with their employer. If passed, the bill will create equitable access to return to work, which would especially benefit frontline workers and small businesses. This bill is awaiting action by the full Senate.

All bills must pass from their House of origin by March 8.

WR addresses important issues before Congress

In the past few weeks, WR has taken steps on two critical issues that must be addressed by Congress.

The first issue concerns the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act (S. 140/H.R. 895), which addresses rising retail crime and targets organized crime gangs hurting retailers and threatening public safety. These critical bills were introduced in Congress by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., in the Senate and by Reps. Ken Buck, R-Colo., Dave Joyce, R-Ohio, Susie Lee, D-Nev., and Dina Titus, D-Nev., in the House.

The Combating Organized Retail Crime Act is vital in improving coordination among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies by establishing a Center to Combat Organized Retail Crime at Homeland Security Investigations. This legislation creates new tools to aid in investigations and criminal prosecutions, providing retailers with the means to combat these illegal activities effectively. Enhancing collaboration and equipping law enforcement with better resources, this act will serve as a crucial step toward deterring organized retail crime and protecting businesses and their customers.

We encourage our readers to join us in thanking the sponsors of these bills for their leadership in fighting ORC by using this link:

The second issue is stopping the FTC’s attempt to ban noncompete agreements. WR signed a coalition letter in solidarity with several other associations with mutual concerns. If adopted, the rule would ban noncompete agreements for all employees and independent contractors, with the exception of cases between buyers and sellers of a business. 

The FTC does not have the statutory authority to propose rules of this type, and attempting to do so is unlawful. This was confirmed two years ago, in AMG v. FTC, when the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the FTC’s self-interpretation of its authority.

WR signed onto a coalition letter sponsored by the U.S. Chamber calling on Congress to oppose the FTC’s proposed rule.


Message of public safety concerns delivered to state lawmakers

Issues involving public safety and retail crimes are top priorities for WR and its members. Retailers and other businesses are seeing an alarming rise in incidents involving public safety.

WR collaborated with four dozen state organizations to inform Washington lawmakers about safety and welfare issues impacting businesses and residents. The coalition recently sent a letter to the state’s House and Senate, presenting a unified message resulting from extensive cooperation between the organizations. By coming together, WR and its partners aim to raise awareness and encourage legislative action that promotes the well-being of Washington’s communities and businesses.

“We are concerned about the sustained and significant rise in certain types of crime, including violent crime, as well as the decrease in the number of law enforcement officers,” the letter stated. “The combination of these two factors has fostered an environment where too many of our state’s residents no longer feel safe going to and from work, shopping in stores, dining in restaurants, and leaving vehicles in parking lots or even in front of their own homes.”

The letter highlighted that in 2021 alone, 495 law enforcement officers were lost, raising concerns about the impact on safety. The loss of such a significant number of officers has created an urgent need for action to address the issue and ensure that the community’s safety isn’t compromised.

The closing message read, “The purpose of this letter is not to prescribe specific solutions or to endorse specific legislation, but rather to emphasize the urgency of the crisis and implore you to find solutions this year that will ensure improved community outcomes… Our collective request is that you carefully consider each proposal, giving each its due consideration in light of the urgency of our present situation.

In addition to WR, other organizations signed on to the letter, prepared by the Association of Washington Businesses, including the Washington Food Industry Association, multiple chambers of commerce, and the Washington Hospitality Association.

Rise Up certifications accessible to K12 students with federal funding in 2023-24

WR is pleased to announce that three of the four RISE Up certifications developed by retailers are now on the 2023-24 Industry Recognized Credentials list under the “Business management & Administration” career cluster. However, the most popular Customer Service & Sales certification that teaches the skill Washington employers seek most—regardless of the position or responsibilities—did not make it to the industry recognition credential list.

According to Matt Murphy, the President/CEO of the South Kitsap Chamber of Commerce who works closely with school districts in his area, CTE directors and the DECA program teachers have struggled to find industry certifications for the business/retail field. This recognition will benefit students in K12 business and marketing programs because they can now access these certifications with federal funding.

WR wants to acknowledge the partnerships with the National Retail Federation Foundation, the Washington Association of Careers and Technical Administrators (WACTA), and many of our members to secure this win for students and our industry.

Knowing that 38% of frontline retail workers are people of color, WR will continue the advocacy because it aligns with our Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) principles. When diverse retail career pathways are visible and desirable, opportunities abound for those who may not have upskilling opportunities without a connected system.

How to communicate with state lawmakers and participate in the process

Our IWR readers have varying degrees of experience with policy and lawmaking. Some are well-versed in the process, while others have only participated by casting their vote during a general election. For those that find themselves among the latter group, this web page by Rep. Peter Abbarno (R-Centralia) may be a valuable resource. The page offers a short video that provides guidance on how to engage with state lawmakers and participate in the legislative process with clear, step-by-step instructions. Whether you’re a seasoned advocate or new to the process, be sure to make your voice heard.

Retail sales surge 3% at start of 2023—a clear sign economy continues to grow

Retail sales increased in January as job and wage growth and easing inflation encouraged spending, but strong spending complicates Fed’s fight to tame inflation.

A 3% increase in sales with US retailers in January is the most significant increase in nearly two years. This number reflects the strength of the economy as the sales had been forecast to increase by 1.9%, according to a Wall Street Journal poll of economists.

Excluding sales of auto dealers and gasoline stations, the receipts increased 2.6%, which is still a strong number, which could increase pressure on the Federal Reserve to continue raising interest rates to tame inflation.

In an interview on CNBC, NRF President & CEO Matthew Shay said, “We have very resilient consumers. People are out there spending, and in spite of what they know, and they tell us about concerns regarding inflation, they’re still finding a way to get out there to spend.”

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell focuses on public safety and downtown revitalization in annual State of the City address

On February 21, Mayor Bruce Harrell delivered his 2023 State of the City address, recounting actions of his Administration’s focus on “core City government services” to reduce homelessness, improve public safety, and revitalize downtown.

The Mayor expressed strong optimism about the future of downtown, declaring, “[l]ook, I’m bullish on the future of downtown. Let me say it again: I am bullish on downtown.” The Mayor pointed to the 100,000 residents and 320,000 downtown jobs as evidence of its vitality. He also commended employers who are requiring their employees to return to downtown offices.

The Downtown Seattle Association echoed the Mayor’s upbeat outlook on downtown. “We share [the mayor’s] belief that we have the opportunity to create a new playbook for what a center city can become,” read a statement from the Downtown Seattle Association.

Harrell expressed optimism that his efforts to improve public safety are beginning to show results. In addition to working to hire more police officers, the Mayor discussed creating a new Civilian Assisted Response and Engagement Department to provide a non-police response to emergency calls.

In addition, the Mayor’s Office released a report on its first-year achievements, “Building One Seattle. Year One - 2022.”

Amazon plans to bring employees back to the office in May

According to the Seattle tech giant’s CEO, Andy Jassy, Amazon plans to bring employees back to the office in May. Most will return to the office three days a week.

Jassy’s reasons for bringing employees back included the ease of collaborating and inventing, introducing new employees to the corporate culture, and learning.

Many employees hired during the pandemic are scattered geographically, and many have yet to set foot on an Amazon property or even have an assigned desk.

The return-to-the-office policy is welcome news to the small businesses surrounding Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. Even if it is only at 60% of pre-pandemic levels, dog daycares, local restaurants, pubs, retail stores, and others will benefit from the increased foot traffic.

AG ORC Task Force to convene in Tacoma on March 29

Attorney General Bob Ferguson is convening his third Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Task Force meeting in Tacoma on March 29.

The purpose of the ORC Task Force is to address the growing ORC problem in Washington State by:

  • Increasing coordination between retailers, law enforcement, and prosecutors at all levels of government,
  • Enforcement of laws and prosecutions of ORC theft groups,
  • Deterring retail thefts and making it known that Washington State will not tolerate retail crimes.

Participating in the meeting will be representatives of law enforcement, prosecutors, retailers, loss prevention officers, and members of the AG’s staff. Washington Retail Association President/CEO Renée Sunde, Senior VP of Policy and Government Affairs Mark Johnson, and Communications Director Robert Haase will be attending. 

Combatting ORC and related public safety concerns remain among WR’s top issues. The task force is one of several strategies in WR’s approach to slow retail theft. WR’s multi-pronged approach includes:

  • Passage of an online marketplace transparency bill—the INFORM Act—which congress approved in the December omnibus bill
  • Continued coordination with the Washington State Organized Retail Crime Association to increase communication among national, state, and local law enforcement agencies and loss prevention officers
  • Passing laws to support and fund law enforcement and enabling officers to do their jobs by effectively providing tools to deter and apprehend criminals
  • Telling the story of how retail theft impacts retail employees, customers, and retailers of all types and sizes
  • Providing resources for small and mid-sized retailers on how to prepare, prevent, protect, and navigate post-crime

Registration is required for both in-person and virtual attendance. WR will announce registration details as soon as they become available.

Prevent debilitating back injuries through safe lifting practices

Back injuries are costly. The yearly economic damage from back injuries for US companies is $225 billion. Poor physical fitness, lack of flexibility, stress, poor posture, lack of rest, and participation in certain recreational activities can all adversely affect the back. These factors, combined with poor lifting practices, often lead to back injuries. Conversely, remaining physically and adhering to safe lifting principles can help avoid them.


When lifting:

  1. First, determine the destination of the item that needs to be moved.
  2. Check for available tools that can aid in lifting to make it easier.
  3. Break heavy loads into smaller units to make lifting more manageable, or recruit coworkers to help.
  4. To lift correctly, stand close to the object with feet shoulder-width apart, bend at the knees, keep the back straight, and avoid bending at the waist. 
  5. Tighten the abdominal muscles and use the muscles in the arms and legs, not the back, to lift the object.
  6. If you need to turn while moving the object, turn by moving your feet rather than reaching and twisting.
  7. When placing an object down, apply technique steps 4-6 in reverse.


RS SafetyTV has a selection of videos on this topic, and SAFEME Essentials has a lesson on proper lifting.


Ensuring safety is a team effort that involves everyone, from management to part-time workers. It is crucial for all team members to be committed and assist in reminding their colleagues to use proper lifting techniques to prevent back injuries. Working together to foster a safety-first culture will help create a safe and healthy work environment.


We only get one back to last a lifetime, so we must take steps to care for and protect it.


Our safety team is available to help members with safety plans and topics for safety meetings. Contact us at 360-943-9198 x122 or

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 & Government Affairs



Robert B. Haase

Director of




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