Newsletter — April 11, 2024







L&I seeks feedback on work hour policies for minors

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is soliciting feedback on a draft administrative policy concerning the employment of minors, encompassing both agricultural and non-agricultural sectors. The policy aims to provide clarity on scheduling and hours of work for young employees, aligning with state law.

Key aspects include stipulations on work shift start and end times, daily and weekly hour limits, scheduling during school breaks and weeks, and provisions for minors in various educational settings.

L&I welcomes comments on the draft policy until May 31st, facilitating submission via their website, email, or postal mail.

The initiative seeks to benefit employers, parents, and teenagers by establishing clear guidelines for minors' work hours. Interested parties can participate in a virtual feedback session on April 26th, utilizing Zoom. This policy initiative aims to ensure the well-being and fair treatment of young workers across Washington state.

Rulemaking underway to implement warehouse quota requirements

Rulemaking is underway by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) to implement legislation (2SHB 1762) passed in 2023 aimed at safeguarding warehouse workers from injuries and employer retaliation associated with quota usage. This legislation grants L&I the authority to enforce new reporting, anti-retaliation, and safety measures for certain warehouse operations employing quotas to gauge performance.

WR provided feedback and testified on initial "pre-proposal" rules in December. The feedback commended L&I for aligning with the legislative intent in the pre-proposal and suggested a technical modification to clarify metrics for determining employee numbers.

In March, L&I issued the first draft of rules to:

Clarify definitions;

  • Quota time periods and reasonable travel time requirements from 2SHB 1762;
  • Clarify the method used for measuring employer size to help accurately determine whether an employer is covered by the rules;
  • Clarify violations of WISHA related to quotas;
  • Provide a table of examples of activities and how a violation of chapter 49.84 RCW could contribute to a violation of the safety standards; 
  • Identify enforcement procedures: employee protection from adverse action and retaliation; and
  • Clarify employer recordkeeping requirements

WR will review draft rules and submit comments by the April 22nd deadline. Upon initial assessment, the draft rules incorporate changes suggested by WR in December and remain closely aligned with the legislative intent and language of 2SHB 1762.

Totality tourism: Harnessing the economic power of solar eclipses

On April 8, 2024, North America experienced its first total solar eclipse since 2017. While the moon's fleeting passage across the sun might seem an unlikely vacation attraction, millions of people from the U.S. and around the globe journeyed to the 115-mile-wide path of totality. Spanning from Texas to Maine and touching parts of Mexico and Canada, this phenomenon sparked a significant economic boost for numerous cities and towns.

Economic forecasts indicated a potential windfall of nearly $1.5 billion in direct spending across the affected states. Retailers situated near the eclipse's path of totality anticipated a surge in business. Drawing from data from the 2017 eclipse, which traversed parts of the Pacific Northwest, retail stores witnessed an increase of 16-27% in foot traffic in the days leading up to the event.

With this year's eclipse covering more cities and densely populated areas, impacting 31 million residents compared to 2017's 12 million, projections for economic benefits around this celestial event are even more substantial.

The next total solar eclipse in the U.S. is not expected until March 30, 2033, and it will only be visible from Alaska.

Bridge collapse in Baltimore: Implications for West Coast retail and logistics

The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, along with the closure of the Port of Baltimore, has sent shockwaves throughout the supply chain, reaching the West Coast.

Major corporations like Amazon, FedEx, and BMW, operating distribution warehouses near the bridge's northern end, are contending with the fallout, adding complexity to logistical hurdles. Retail giants like Volkswagen and BMW anticipate trucking delays due to the collapse.

The closure affects industries such as farming machinery, construction equipment, and imports like sugar. The Domino Sugar refinery, a significant manufacturer in Baltimore, faces operational uncertainties during the shutdown.

The cruise industry, including companies like Carnival Corporation, faces substantial profit losses due to the port's temporary closure. 

In the short term, East Coast businesses and consumers will experience increased costs as container ships reroute to nearby ports in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, causing logistical adjustments, delays, and congestion. 

Looking ahead, the bottleneck in imports and exports may drive a shift towards West Coast ports, potentially boosting activity, albeit raising concerns about congestion.

Businesses may reassess import strategies, redirecting cargo to ports with greater capacity and infrastructure, such as those along the Gulf Coast or in Los Angeles and Long Beach. Long-term impacts depend on factors like fuel prices and the duration of the port closure.

The collapse underscores the interconnected nature of global supply chains and emphasizes the need for resilience and proactive adaptation in the retail and logistics sectors.

CEO confidence dips amid election uncertainty

In the latest CEO Confidence Index poll, optimism took a hit as concerns over the upcoming presidential election weighed heavily on executives' minds. With uncertainties looming, including inflation, interest rates, consumer debt, and geopolitical risks, CEO confidence dropped by 7 percent in April.

Despite the decline, projections for profits remained positive, with 63 percent expecting improvement, although expectations for increased revenues dipped slightly to 69 percent.

Additionally, plans for capital expenditures and hiring saw decreases, reflecting ongoing challenges in the labor market. Looking ahead, 44 percent of CEOs anticipate conditions to improve post-election, while 25 percent foresee deterioration.

Kathy Mast, president & CEO of NeuvoNow, emphasized the importance of making informed decisions after the election, expressing confidence that regardless of the outcome, conditions would improve. As CEOs navigate these uncertain times, the resilience of businesses remains steadfast in adapting to the evolving economic landscape.

WR presents at Renton Chamber

Last week, WR's Senior VP of Policy and Government Affairs, Mark Johnson, delivered a presentation at the Renton Chamber of Commerce. Johnson provided insights into the 2024 Legislature's outcomes and their implications for retailers and employers.

The meeting, held at Merrill Gardens Senior Living, drew a substantial turnout, with participation from both small business owners and major corporations. It marked the group's first in-person gathering since the pandemic. Additionally, representatives from the Boeing Company, which maintains a significant presence in Renton through its 737 Aircraft Assembly Plant, addressed the attendees.

Johnson outlined WR's priorities entering the legislative session, discussed unexpected developments, highlighted key outcomes, and offered projections for the upcoming 2025 Session.

Notably, issues concerning worker and public safety, retail theft, and organized retail crime remained prominent for retailers. The passage of Initiative-2113, which enables law enforcement to pursue property criminals with appropriate training and authority, garnered strong bipartisan support, albeit surprisingly.

A novel focus on artificial intelligence (AI) development, usage, and regulation emerged this year. The Legislature ultimately sanctioned a comprehensive review of AI-related matters under the purview of the Attorney General's office.

Among the potentially detrimental proposals were a series of gift card regulations aimed at restricting or abolishing gift card sales in Washington state. These ill-conceived measures would have compelled retailers to remit unused gift cards to the state and gather and furnish personal information on gift card purchasers. Fortunately, a broad coalition, spearheaded by WR, successfully thwarted these detrimental initiatives.

Looking ahead to 2025, WR anticipates revisiting the gift card legislation and intends to introduce comprehensive safety measures, combat retail theft and organized retail crime through potentially consolidating legislation. Additionally, the agenda may encompass packaging recycling, supply chain transparency ("Fast Fashion"), a cell phone tax, unemployment insurance for striking workers, a property tax hike, and further AI regulations.

WR expresses gratitude to Diane Dobson, CEO of the Renton Chamber, for extending the invitation to engage with the chamber. Learn more at

Seattle Mayor proposes $1.35 billion transportation levy

Mayor Bruce Harrell has proposed a new transportation levy in Seattle history, which would be the largest tax levy in Seattle history, raising $1.35 billion over 8 years. It would replace the expiring $970 million Move Seattle levy. If approved by the voters in November, this measure would cost $36 per month for the average cost home, a $12 monthly increase over its predecessor.

The transportation levy would fund:

  • $423 million for repaving and improving the busiest streets in the city;
  • $218 million for repairing and maintaining bridges (providing $27 million annually, up from the current $6-$7 million);
  • $100 million for sidewalk repair and expansion; and
  • nearly $100 million for new bike lanes.

Seattle City Councilmember Rob Saka, chair of the Transportation Committee, pledged that the Council would “review and improve upon this proposal.”

Seattle Council reconsiders Delivery Pay Ordinance amid backlash

Seattle City Council is reconsidering its controversial delivery pay ordinance following two months of backlash. The ordinance, implemented in January 2024, aimed to protect delivery workers but resulted in increased costs for consumers and lost revenue for businesses. The proposal discussed in the Governance, Accountability & Economic Development Committee seeks to rectify these issues.

The Alliance, including TechNet and the Seattle Latino Chamber of Commerce, highlights the urgency, emphasizing the significant economic impact of the app-based industry on the state. Renée Sunde, President/CEO of WR, stresses the detrimental effects on small retailers and family-owned businesses.

Sunde states, “For small retailers or family-owned businesses, this has created huge issues and lost revenue that will be tough to recover. Winter months are generally a little slower in the city as it is.”

Delivery workers, customers, and retailers have voiced concerns, urging the council to act swiftly. Sunde expresses hope for a speedy resolution, acknowledging the council's willingness to address industry concerns.

The proposal must pass through committee before a potential full council vote in April, offering a chance to mitigate the adverse effects of the ordinance and support struggling businesses.

Read more:

Update: New legislative district boundaries in effect for 2024 election cycle after stay requests denied

In March, Federal District Court Judge Robert Lasnick revealed revised legislative district maps following his ruling last year that boundaries set by Washington's Bi-Partisan Redistricting Commission violated federal law in one Yakima region district (See March 28 IWR).

Judge Lasnick's redistricting affects 13 legislative districts statewide, resulting in the displacement of two House Representatives and three State Senators. Opponents of the new boundaries sought stays from both the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court pending trial outcomes. Last week, both courts declined to issue stays, thus confirming the implementation of the new district boundaries for the 2024 election cycle.

Building a stronger workforce: The impact of the Workforce for America Act

The House passed the Stronger Workforce for America Act this week in a 378 to 36 vote. This bipartisan support is a significant milestone, signaling a commitment to strengthening employer engagement and ensuring worker competitiveness in today's dynamic job market. H.R. 6655 fosters partnerships between workforce development agencies, colleges and universities, and businesses, benefiting employers and employees.

The Stronger Workforce for America Act aims to revitalize the nation's workforce development system, building upon the foundation laid by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) of 2014. Recognizing persistent challenges in providing effective services to workers and employers, the new bill proposes significant updates to WIOA, focusing on four key pillars: skills development, accountability, pathways to economic opportunity, and innovation for a skills-based economy.

The Act proposes to allocate 50 percent of adult and dislocated worker funding towards upskilling through individual training accounts (ITAs) and employer-led initiatives, providing displaced workers with $5,000 ITAs for high-quality reskilling programs. States are empowered to establish critical industry skills funds to support workforce upskilling in priority sectors. Moreover, it enhances accountability by streamlining training provider lists, updating performance indicators, and modernizing service delivery.

The bill also emphasizes pathways to economic opportunity, such as work-based learning for youth and supporting individuals transitioning from incarceration to employment. Additionally, it promotes innovation by authorizing demonstration programs, facilitating skills-based hiring practices, and enhancing workforce data quality.

The Workforce for America Act will provide individuals the necessary skills to adapt to the ever-changing job market and will help to foster collaboration between employers and the workforce system; driving economic growth and prosperity for all Americans.

State Senator Mike Padden announces retirement


Long-serving State Senator Mike Padden has announced his retirement, leaving behind a legacy of impactful advocacy, notably in retail security. Padden's tenure has been marked by staunch support for initiatives addressing public safety concerns and combatting retail theft.


A key ally of WR, Senator Padden spearheaded efforts to enhance security measures, safeguarding businesses and consumers statewide. His leadership has yielded significant progress in deterring retail theft and fostering safer retail environments.


As Senator Padden bids farewell, his legacy of retail security advocacy remains a cornerstone in shaping future policies. WR extends gratitude for his dedicated service, acknowledging his enduring impact on the retail sector.

Bipartisan data privacy bill unveiled by Washington lawmakers

Two Washington lawmakers, Senator Maria Cantwell and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, are collaborating on the American Privacy Rights Act (APRA), a bipartisan effort to safeguard data privacy.

The bill aims to establish a national standard for data privacy rights, countering the current patchwork of state laws. If passed, consumers would gain control over how tech giants like Google and Meta utilize their personal data, including the right to opt out of certain data practices and to access and delete their data.

Moreover, the bill would require notification to individuals if their data is transferred or sold, addressing concerns about data sharing without consent. Cantwell emphasizes the importance of empowering consumers to dictate the use of their data and seek legal recourse for any harm incurred.

The legislators attribute the newfound urgency for a privacy bill to the rising use of AI, prompting widespread concern in Congress. Despite McMorris Rodgers' impending departure from office, both lawmakers express optimism about passing the bill by the year's end, with plans to introduce it in the House and the Senate in the coming weeks.

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Updated COVID-19 guidance for Washington State businesses


The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) has issued interim guidance for workplaces regarding COVID-19 safety measures. All employers are advised to continuously assess the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and take necessary precautions to safeguard their employees.

For healthcare workers, adherence to CDC recommendations, including Standard Precautions, is paramount. Non-healthcare employees should follow CDC guidelines for preventing respiratory viruses.

L&I strongly recommends the use of well-fitting masks or respirators in close proximity to individuals with COVID-19 symptoms, especially within the first 10 days of symptom onset. Employers must ensure the voluntary use of respirators doesn't compromise safety.

Employers should integrate COVID-19 safety measures into their Accident Prevention Programs and provide comprehensive training to employees. Regular handwashing, surface disinfection, and record-keeping of COVID-19 cases are also advised.

Additional precautions include keeping symptomatic employees out of the workplace until they are symptom-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication, implementing enhanced ventilation, and promoting vaccination.

For workers at increased risk or those in high-exposure roles, appropriate respiratory protection is essential. Employers are encouraged to facilitate telework and flexible leave policies to support affected employees.

Overall, L&I emphasizes the importance of maintaining a safe work environment and complying with relevant regulations to protect both employees and customers.

L&I Guidance for Preventing COVID-19

Costco partners with Sesame to offer weight-loss programs to members


Costco Wholesale has expanded its partnership with online healthcare services provider Sesame to offer weight-loss programs, including prescription drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy, to its members.

For $179 over three months, Costco members can access the program, which includes guidance on diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications, as well as potential medication prescriptions. While the subscription doesn't cover medication or lab costs, clinicians may help reduce expenses through pre-authorizations.

Demand for GLP-1 agonists, effective for diabetes and obesity, has surged in recent years. Costco, with 130 million members, aims to meet this demand through its partnership with Sesame. This move follows Costco's previous collaboration with Sesame to offer outpatient medical care.

In the wake of the pandemic, other big-box retailers like Amazon and Walmart have also entered the healthcare sector. Amazon offers virtual primary care for Prime members, while Walmart operates primary care centers and sells GLP-1 drugs through its pharmacies.

Home Depot set to acquire SRS Distribution for $18.25B

Home Depot is set to acquire SRS Distribution, a building products supplier, for $18.25 billion, aiming to enhance its services for professional customers amidst a shift in consumer behavior. This move comes as more do-it-yourselfers delay major home improvement projects due to inflation. SRS, known for serving professional contractors in roofing, landscaping, and pool industries, will continue under its current leadership. Home Depot plans to finance the acquisition through existing funds and debt, anticipating closure by the end of FY 2024. With this purchase, Home Depot expands its addressable market by $50 billion, reaching approximately $1 trillion.

Emphasizing the significance of professional customers, who constitute half of its sales, Home Depot CEO Ted Decker highlights SRS's established position and growth trajectory. Founded in 2008, SRS boasts a vast network across the United States, with over 760 branches and a strong sales force. The synergy between SRS's assets and Home Depot's retail infrastructure is poised to enhance service options for residential pro customers.

Home Depot's strategy includes opening new distribution centers in strategic locations to better serve pro customers, stocking essential items like lumber and roofing materials. This strategic acquisition and expansion align with Home Depot's commitment to catering to professional clientele and consolidating its position in the competitive home improvement market.

H&M Group invests in physical stores, including refurbishing 250 globally

H&M Group, the renowned fast-fashion company, has unveiled plans to bolster its physical store presence by investing in refurbishments and strategic openings. Despite recent closures in response to growing e-commerce trends, the company intends to slow down the pace of shutdowns this year. In 2023, while 101 new stores were launched, 197 were closed globally. This year, around 100 new stores are slated for opening while approximately 160 will close, with a net reduction of 60. Notably, H&M will refurbish roughly 250 stores worldwide, aiming to enhance customer experience and sustainability initiatives.

Former CEO Helena Helmersson emphasized the significance of physical stores in providing customers with inspiration and the opportunity to try on clothes. The company's commitment to sustainability is evident in its store operations, with initiatives such as repair services and the use of RFID technology for inventory management. H&M also plans to expand into new markets, with the H&M brand set to debut in Brazil by 2025.

Despite a slight decline in Q1 sales, H&M remains optimistic about its future prospects, focusing on enhancing the shopping experience and strengthening its global footprint.

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, President/CEO — 360.200.6450 — Email

Mark Johnson, Sr. VP of Policy & Government Affairs — 360.943.0667 — Email

Crystal Leatherman, State & Local GA Manager — 360.200-6453 — Email

Rose Gundersen, VP of Operations & Retail Services — 360.200.6452 — Email