Newsletter — February 22, 2024








What we are tracking — WR Legislative Hot List

Artificial Intelligence Bills (SB 5838)

  • Progress: Senate version heard in House Consumer Protection Committee on Feb 20. 
  • WR’s Stance: More information is needed before the state begins regulating. Supports retail inclusion in a task force, seeks timeline extension; high-priority concerns. Believes a national solution would be preferable.
  • Status: Passed out of committee.

Unemployment Insurance (UI) for Striking Workers (HB 1893)

  • Allows for striking workers to collect unemployment insurance benefits
  • WR is opposed to this bill
  • Status: HB 1893 passed the House Feb 13 with amendments; heard on 2/15 in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee; passed Committee on 2/19 and is in Senate Rules.

Retail workforce workgroup (SB 6296)

  • Objective: Establish a retail workgroup to promote training opportunities
  • WR supports this bill
  • Status: The Senate passed this bill unanimously on 2/13. The House Postsecondary Education and Workforce Committee passed this bill out of committee.

Incentives for Return to Work (SB 5368) (HB 2127)

  • Changes: SB 5368 allows small businesses to partner with local nonprofits to provide light-duty return-to-work opportunities; HB 2127 increases the reimbursement rate for businesses that provide a light-duty return-to-work opportunity for an injured worker.
  • WR supports these bills
  • Status: SB 5368 passed Senate 44-4 but failed to pass the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee by 2/22. HB 2127 passed House of Representatives 97-0; Public hearing in Senate Labor and Commerce committee on 2/15 and passed by Committee on 2/19 and in Senate Rules.

Repeat Offenders (SB 5056)

  • Proposal: Allows a court to sentence a habitual property offender to an additional 24 months for a Class B felony, and an additional 12 months for a Class C felony
  • WR supports this bill
  • Status: Executive session was scheduled, but no action was taken in the House Committee on Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry Feb 20.

Multiple Accomplices (HB 5160)

  • Changes: A person commits second-degree organized retail theft if they—along with at least two accomplices—enter the store within five minutes of each other, and steal property worth $750 or more from a retail store. 
  • WR supports this bill
  • Status: unanimously passed out of the Senate and was scheduled for a public hearing and executive session in the House Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry Committee. Failed to proceed.  

House hears important Crisis Relief Centers bill 

Tuesday, the House Committee on Human Services, Youth and Early Learning heard Senate Bill 5853 extending the crisis relief center model to provide services to minors, prime sponsored by Senator Manka Dhingra (D-45). WR testified in favor of this important measure. 


Organized Retail Crime (ORC) rings prey on individuals suffering from behavioral illness and substance abuse addiction – regardless of their age. These individuals deserve and need treatment to break the cycle. Locking them up in jail or taking them to a medical facility doesn’t help them and our communities. Crisis relief centers can guide them to the proper services they need. 


WR supports a multi-pronged approach in improving worker and public safety, lowering retail theft, and cracking down on organized retail crime – no one strategy will solve this complex problem. In order to ensure healthy, vibrant communities this measure and several others are required to provide the best chance for success. 


Other measures like Initiative 2113 – allowing police to pursue property criminals in their vehicles, SB 5056 – allowing judges to impose stricter penalties on extreme repeat offenders, SB 5160 – increasing sentencing for ORC rings using multiple accomplices, all help incentivize individuals to seek treatment rather than incarceration. Remember, our legal system cannot force someone to have treatment – the individual has to choose it.  


SB 5853 – is one of the prongs or strategies in helping those in need and providing more vibrant communities for all Washingtonians. 

Public safety bills on hold in the house 

WR has been one of the strongest and loudest advocates for improving public safety and urging the legislature to confront the challenges of retail theft and Organized Retail Crime (ORC). This session has been dedicated to creating and supporting a comprehensive strategy that includes early access to diversion programs while ensuring accountability for ORC rings and habitual offenders engaged in serious offenses. 


Two crucial bills that formed part of our multipronged approach successfully cleared the Senate. However, prospects for their passage in the House are unlikely. 


SB 5160: Organized Retail Crime-Multiple Accomplices  

SB 5160 targets the intricate problem of ORC by addressing the involvement of multiple accomplices. The unanimous passage of this bill in the Senate demonstrated a shared commitment to establish a responsible and equitable framework for addressing public safety, combating retail theft, and deterring ORC operations across Washington. 


The bill was originally scheduled for a public hearing and executive session in the House Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry Committee. However, as of Thursday, February 15 it was pulled from the agenda without explanation. Despite WR, other business associations, and the broader business community urging for a public hearing before the February 21 cutoff, the request has not been granted.  


SB 5056 – Habitual Offenders 

SB 5056 seeks to address habitual property crime offenders through sentence enhancements, focusing solely on the most serious offenders. Despite Washington Retail's efforts to amend the bill to prioritize access to treatment and reduce recidivism, some committee members remain opposed to lengthening incarceration sentences, casting doubt on the bill's future progress. 


While the bipartisan support garnered in the Senate is commendable, it's unlikely these bills will advance further this session. Nevertheless, Washington Retail and its members remain steadfast in our commitment to combatting retail theft and ORC in our state. For those interested in joining our grassroots efforts to foster safer working environments, improve the shopping experience, and strengthen communities, please send an email to WR Local & State Government Affairs Manager Crystal Leatherman at

Three out of six initiatives to receive public hearings 

The initiatives receiving hearings include Initiative I-2081, establishing a parental bill of rights for public school education; I- 2111, prohibiting state and local income taxes; and I- 2113, loosening restrictions on police vehicular pursuits.


Notably, the remaining three initiatives will not receive public hearings. These include I- 2109 to repeal the capital gains tax, I- 2117 to repeal the Climate Commitment Act, and I- 2124 to expand opt-outs of the state’s long-term care program.


The House and Senate will hold joint public hearings on the selected initiatives on February 27 and 28, with specific times to be confirmed later.


Let’s Go Washington, the group behind the initiatives, gathered 2.6 million signatures in their push to place these measures on the ballot. While the Legislature may approve the initiatives, it's unlikely. If not, they'll be sent to voters for the November ballot. Furthermore, Let’s Go Washington invites supporters will hold a rally on February 23 at 12pm on the Capitol steps in Olympia, to discuss these critical issues and show solidarity for their causes.

Join Let’s Go Washington for their Six Initiatives Rally 

Let’s Go Washington created the grassroots Initiative Project to promote ballot initiatives that provide rational solutions to our state’s biggest problems. 


If public safety, cost of living, and parental rights are your top priorities this election season, I invite you to join our rally on Friday, February 23rd at 12pm on the Capitol steps in Olympia. 

Balancing safety and authority: The debate over WA State Initiative 2113 on vehicular pursuits


In recent months, public safety has taken center stage in Washington State, sparking intense discussions on the delicate equilibrium between law enforcement's authority and the paramount importance of ensuring the safety of both officers and civilians. At the heart of this discourse lies the contentious issue of vehicular pursuits, which has catalyzed the introduction of WA State I-2113.

This initiative seeks to recalibrate the balance by reinstating the prerogative of peace officers to engage in vehicular pursuits under specific circumstances. Currently, regulations restrict such pursuits to instances where there is probable cause to believe that the suspect has committed a violent felony. While this limitation aims to minimize risks to public safety, critics argue that it compromises law enforcement's ability to effectively apprehend suspects and maintain law and order.

WR has been a strong proponent of I- 2113 advocating for its passage, asserting that expanding officers' authority to pursue vehicles based on reasonable suspicion of a violation will bolster law enforcement's efficacy in apprehending suspects and deterring criminal activity. The importance of equipping officers with the necessary tools to uphold public safety and enforce the rule of law is a top priority in addressing property crimes across the state

However, opponents voice concerns regarding the potential dangers associated with vehicular pursuits, including the heightened risk of accidents, injuries, and fatalities involving both law enforcement officers and innocent bystanders. 

The debate surrounding I-2113 underscores the multifaceted nature of balancing law enforcement authority with the imperative to safeguard public safety. WR believes that the passage of I-2113 will effectively balance both priorities.

Join our team - become a retail advocate

WR uses VoterVoice as a tool to help state legislators hear from their constituents on key issues affecting retailers, employees, and keeping workplaces safe. Most campaigns take 2-minutes or less to contact your legislators on the bills that matter most. Will you join us?

Use this link to sign up!

January economic recap: U.S. and Washington State 

In January, the United States economy experienced a surge in employment, with 353,000 jobs added, surpassing expectations, and maintaining an unemployment rate of 3.7%. Real GDP also expanded by 3.3% in the fourth quarter of 2023, exceeding predictions, with a 2.5% growth rate for the year.

Consumer prices rose moderately by 0.3% in January, contributing to a 3.1% increase over the year. However, sectors like mining and heavy construction saw declines, while others, such as manufacturing and healthcare, experienced job increases. Consumer confidence surged due to improved inflation expectations and a strong labor market. 

In Washington state, job growth was stronger than expected, particularly in manufacturing and arts/entertainment sectors, but there was an uptick in unemployment rates over the past three months. Seattle-area home prices dipped slightly in November, and overall housing construction slowed in the fourth quarter. Despite this, Washington exports saw a notable increase in the transportation sector. Revenue collections for the period of January 11 to February 10, 2024, were higher than forecasted, indicating positive trends in the state's economic activity. 

In summary, while the U.S. economy showed resilience and growth, Washington state faced fluctuations in employment and housing markets, alongside positive revenue outcomes. 

Read the full Economic and Revenue Forecast Council report.

Millions in revenue lost at Seattle businesses due to City’s new untested gig worker minimum pay standard

On Jan. 13, the City of Seattle implemented an unprecedented new law that made huge changes to the way app-based delivery works by implementing the Minimum Pay Standard for gig workers. The new law requires Dashers to earn at least $26.40 per hour, before tips, plus additional pay for mileage–far exceeding Seattle’s minimum wage of $19.97. In response, DoorDash put in place a regulatory response fee

Because this is an untested and unprecedented policy, countless community advocates, small business owners, Dashers, and consumers spoke out against this untested policy while it was being considered by the City in 2022.  

They warned that it would make delivery prohibitively expensive for thousands of residents. New data DoorDash gathered over a two-week period since the law took effect, confirms that:  

  • Consumers have placed 30,000 fewer orders on DoorDash Marketplace; 
  • Dashers are seeing an average waiting time that is three times longer between offers, meaning fewer earning opportunities; and, 
  • Seattle businesses missed out on more than $1 million in revenue. 

The WA Alliance for Innovation and Independent Work issued a press release on February 20, 2024, sharing concerns about the impacts of the Minimum Pay Standard on Seattle businesses.  

“This is just devastating for our retailers in Seattle,” said Renée Sunde, president and CEO of the Washington Retail Association. “Small businesses have come to rely on app-based delivery workers to help grow their customer base, especially since the pandemic. This new ordinance feels like a tremendous step backwards for merchants, workers, and customers. We would encourage the new council to examine the impact this law has already had in such a short time, and seriously consider a repeal.” she said. “We need policies that lift up merchants and workers and customers. This is clearly having the opposite effect.” 

The bottom line is Seattle’s Minimum Pay Standard regulation has made it harder for app-based delivery drivers to flexibly earn when and where they want, has caused lost revenue for small businesses and is impacting customers.  

It remains to be seen what the impact of the Council’s 10-cent per-delivery fee law will be when it takes effect in 2025. 

Mayor Bruce Harrell leans into his “One Seattle” in State of the City address

Now midway through his 4-year term, Mayor Bruce Harrell highlighted accomplishments from the past year and offered clues on how he intends to address challenges that continue to confront the City. 

The Mayor put his “One Seattle” approach on display in the speech, offering praise to Council President Sara Nelson and City Attorney Ann Davison, while finding opportunities throughout his address to tell each Councilmember how he looks forward to working with them. He also discussed the new expectations facing the City after the election of a new Council: 

“With a new City Council, there is a new level of expectation for the City. We don’t run away from high expectations, in fact, we draw energy from them.” 

The Mayor addressed lagging efforts to hire additional police by saying that he would review the Seattle Police Department’s recruitment policies. He also emphasized the need to hire police who reflect the values of the community. The Mayor added that he will soon be announcing plans for a $7 million “post-overdose” facility. 

The Mayor was less clear on his plans to revitalize downtown. With the persistently-low return to offices by downtown workers stalling vitality there, the Mayor stated that he would not “fixate on trying to revive the old downtown — instead, we aimed to reimagine what a downtown could be.” 

The Mayor focused on the conversion of storefronts to small businesses and transitioning some office buildings to housing. After lauding the impacts of the Major League Baseball All Star game and Taylor Swift (he mentioned that her one concert was literally a seismic event), the Mayor looked ahead to the 2026 FIFA World Cup (as he said, the equivalent of 3 Super Bowls) and the return of the Sonics (even though they would be playing at Climate Pledge Arena on the Seattle Center campus). 

On the homelessness issue, the Mayor committed to continued review of the work of the Regional Homelessness Authority and the City’s funding contribution. He also took a jab at other communities in the County, saying that a “regional approach means that there is permanent supportive housing and services in every community in our region — not just in Seattle.” 

On closing the City’s projected $226 million budget deficit in 2025, the Mayor did not offer specifics. He did signal his opposition to new taxes, however, declaring “the fact is that passing a new or expanded tax will not address the fundamental issues needed to close this gap in the long-run.” 

Other big issues lie ahead in 2024, including revisions to the City’s Comprehensive Plan, which will guide housing growth, and a transportation levy. Clearly, the Mayor and new Council have a busy year ahead. 

Watch Mayor Bruce Harrell’s full speech. 

Federal Way faces surge in car prowls, sparking calls for Legislative action

In the quiet streets of Federal Way, a sudden surge in car prowls has shattered the tranquility of its residents. Within a mere 24 hours, the city found itself besieged by a staggering 69 incidents of car prowling, leaving behind shattered windows and stolen possessions as stark reminders of the havoc wrought by criminal elements.

The perpetrators, a daring group of five juveniles operating in a stolen vehicle, brazenly targeted vehicles parked across Federal Way with a flagrant disregard for the law and the safety of the community. In response to this unsettling trend, Mayor Jim Ferrell has sounded the alarm, calling for swift action to address the root causes of this surge in criminal activity.

At the heart of the discourse lies the pressing need for legislative reform, particularly concerning pursuit laws that currently bind the hands of law enforcement. Police Chief Andy J. Hwang has echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the urgent necessity of updating these laws to equip officers with the necessary tools to combat crime effectively and ensure the safety of residents.

This urgent call for reform aligns with I- 2113, which seeks to restore the authority of peace officers to engage in vehicular pursuits under certain circumstances. By amending RCW 10.116.060, this initiative aims to provide law enforcement with the means to apprehend suspects and protect the community from escalating criminal activities.

The existing constraints on pursuits, especially for property crimes, have emboldened criminals and hampered law enforcement's ability to bring them to justice. 

In response to these challenges, there has been a resounding call for meaningful legislative intervention. 


Strengthening Public Safety: Highlights from the Seattle Southside Chamber Webinar

Mark Johnson, WR Senior VP of Policy and Government Affairs, presented to the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce webinar on public safety along with area police chiefs, the Washington Organized Retail Crime Association, and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.


Johnson focused on the impacts to retailers, their workers and customers, and solutions being deployed at a local, state, and federal level. He also shared resources for small and midsized businesses to protect their businesses and employees.


The hour-and-a-half webinar was well attended by local business leaders.


Please follow this link: to watch the webinar.


If you have further questions, please contact Mark at 360-704-0048 or

Grocery workers union supports Kroger-Albertsons merger

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, representing thousands of grocery workers across several Western states, has endorsed the proposed merger between Kroger and Albertsons

The $24.6 billion deal, announced in October 2022, aims to address concerns about potential store divestitures through discussions with C&S Wholesale Grocers

Despite legal challenges, including lawsuits filed by attorneys general in Washington state and Colorado, the union sees the merger as a favorable outcome for workers. With details about store divestitures still pending, the endorsement from UFCW Local 555 adds weight to the ongoing debate about the future of grocery retail in the region.

Read more from The Seattle Times

Don’t overlook safety basics!

While there are everyday tasks to ensure excellent customer service, it’s important to focus on the basics of safety to protect workers. It may be hard to remember everything but a refresher on some of the basics of workplace safety is helpful every now and then. 

Identifying Hazards and Shortcomings

  • Incident investigations provide employers and workers with an opportunity to identify hazards within their operations. Whether it’s a fatality, injury, illness, or a close call (often termed “near misses”), investigating these incidents helps focus on areas where safety measures fall short.
  • By walking back the incident and examining the root cause of an incident, teams can figure out what is lacking in equipment, procedures, training, and overall safety and health programs. 

Preventing Injuries and Illnesses

  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) acts as a barrier between workers and potential harm. It prevents injuries such as cuts, burns, eye damage, respiratory issues, and more. 
  • Properly fitting PPE significantly reduces the risk of accidents and long-term health problems. Use this PPE Job Hazard Analysis to determine the PPE needed for the task. 


Raising Awareness and Reminding Employees

  • Safety bulletin boards serve as visible reminders for employees about workplace safety practices. They should be placed in prominent locations to reinforce safety messages.
  • These boards can highlight essential safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and preventive measures. Regular exposure to this information helps employees internalize safety practices. 

Although these are the basics it’s always important to keep them current as the foundation of a basic safety program. Besides, these basics could avert citations when safety inspectors come for a visit  

Need help with improving your safety program? Check out our free Safety Ambassador Program, where we can help your safety programs to go from compliance toward quality safety practices. Contact us at 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, 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