Newsletter — November 9, 2023









Veterans in retail: A salute to service excellence

As we honor those who have served in the US Armed Forces this Veterans Day, it’s time to spotlight the invaluable asset veterans are in the retail sector. The question isn’t “Why hire a veteran?” but “Why would you not?” Veterans bring a wealth of skills and attributes that are highly sought after by retailers everywhere.

Leadership is second nature to many veterans. With experience managing teams of varying sizes, often under challenging conditions, veterans bring a sense of order and direction that can galvanize a retail team. They’re not just leaders; they’re leaders forged in some of the most demanding environments.

The military is built on trust and teamwork, principles that are equally essential in retail. Veterans know that success is a collective effort and that a team’s strength is increased when its members work together harmoniously.

Strategic thinking is a hallmark of military training, and it aligns perfectly with retail’s need for tactical and strategic planning. Veterans are adept at setting goals and crafting the steps necessary to achieve them, ensuring that retail operations run efficiently and effectively.

Work ethic is ingrained in military culture, where the standard is excellence, not just completion. This translates into a retail setting where veterans strive to meet expectations and exceed them, ensuring quality in customer service and operations.

Accustomed to dynamic and high-energy environments, veterans thrive in a fast-paced environment. They are well-versed in adapting to change and overcoming challenges, skills that are particularly valuable during peak retail seasons and unexpected situations.

We honor our veterans today—and every day—and thank them for their service.

Washington state set to lower Paid Family & Medical Leave premiums 

In 2024, workers in Washington state can look forward to a slight reduction in the premiums for the Paid Family & Medical Leave program. The program has proven to be a crucial financial safety net that has supported over 125,000 individuals with benefits exceeding $1 billion in 2023 alone. The Employment Security Department (ESD) has announced that as the new year rolls in, the premium rate will be adjusted downward to 0.74% from the current rate of 0.8%.

This adjustment reflects the program's design, which mandates an annual recalibration of the premium rate based on the prior year's collected premiums and the utilization of the program. The cost-sharing structure between employers and employees will remain unchanged; employers will contribute 28.57% of the total premium, while employees will shoulder the remaining 71.43%.

It's important to note that smaller businesses, specifically those with fewer than 50 employees, are not obligated to pay their share of the premiums unless they choose to participate voluntarily. Nonetheless, these smaller entities are still responsible for collecting the employee portion of the premium or covering it on behalf of their employees.

Washingtonians are encouraged to visit the official website at for more detailed information and updates on the program. This resource is set to provide ongoing guidance and support to both employers and workers navigating the Paid Family & Medical Leave benefits.

Ecology finalizes Post-Consumer Recycled Content rule language

The Washington State Department of Ecology has finalized the regulatory language for the Post-Consumer Recycled Content (PCRC) rule, a significant step following the passage of Senate Bill 5022. This development is particularly noteworthy for committee members who recall the debate over the definition of "producer" during the CR-102 stage. The finalized rule retains the original definition of "producer" as it was initially negotiated and enacted in the legislation.

The rule, which will come into effect on December 1, 2023, is a critical component of Washington's environmental regulatory framework. Stakeholders and the public can access the rule adoption documents for a comprehensive understanding of the new regulations. The documents are available on the PCRC Rule Webpage and include the adopted rule language, the rule implementation plan, and a concise explanatory statement. This statement also contains Ecology's responses to the public comments received during the consultation period. Those interested in the feedback can review the comments on the WAC 173-925 eComments page.

The Department of Ecology has not endorsed using the PCRC's definition of "producer" within the broader Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) bill. Ecology’s position is based on the assessment that the definition is inadequate, considering the EPR bill will encompass a broader range of products.

EPR stakeholders may be required to navigate differing interpretations of "producer" as they work to comply with the various environmental regulations in Washington State.

The Adoption Notice is pivotal in the state's environmental policy, setting the stage for implementing a rule that will influence the production and recycling of consumer goods, reflecting the state's commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility.

2023 Holiday to reach record spending levels

Holiday spending is expected to reach record levels during November and December and will grow between 3% and 4% over 2022 to between $957.3 billion and $966.6 billion.

Overall household finances remain in good shape and will continue to support the consumer’s ability to spend.

Despite a slower growth rate compared with the past three years, when trillions of dollars of stimulus led to unprecedented rates of retail spending during the pandemic, this year’s holiday spending is consistent with the average annual holiday increase of 3.6% from 2010 to 2019. 

Online shopping has been one of the biggest shifts in consumer behavior from the COVID-19 pandemic. Online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, are expected to increase this year between 7% and 9%, with totals between $273.7 billion and $278.8 billion. That figure is up from $255.8 billion last year.

Consumers remain in the driver’s seat and are resilient despite future inflation, higher gas prices, tight credit conditions, and elevated interest rates. Spending is expected to continue through the end of the year on a range of items and experiences but at a slower pace. Solid job and wage growth will be contributing factors this holiday season, and consumers will be looking for deals and discounts to stretch their dollars.

To meet the demand of the holiday season, retailers are expected to hire between 345,000 and 450,000 seasonal workers nationally, in line with 391,000 seasonal hires in 2022. Some of this hiring may have been pulled into October to support retailers’ holiday buying events in October. 

Washington payroll employment climbs in September

According to recent state and federal figures, Washington state saw an increase in payroll employment last month and a higher number of job openings in August.

Although Washington's economy gained an estimated 7,900 jobs in September, per the state Employment Security Department, the retail sector lost 800 jobs. Meanwhile, the monthly unemployment rate remained constant at 3.6%.

"Jobs grew at a faster pace than the prior month," said ESD state economist Paul Turek. "The demand for workers has been resilient, although the trend toward more modest job growth remains intact."

Last month's unemployment rate improved compared to the 4.4% rate seen a year ago in September 2022.

The state also saw unemployment claims drop last month. Benefits were paid to 54,073 people, a decrease of 2,862 paid claims in August. In particular, fewer claims came from two labor sectors: transportation and warehousing and health care and social assistance.

Washington's unemployment rate in September was below the national average, which remained constant at 3.8%.

According to Employment Security, the statewide labor force declined by 6,000 people from August to September. However, over the past year, the eligible workforce grew by 53,700 persons, with much of the increase – some 42,200 individuals – occurring in the greater Puget Sound areas of Seattle, Bellevue, and Everett.

Statewide, private-sector employment increased by 6,900 jobs from August to September, while government employment increased by 1,000.

The sector showing the biggest job gains was professional and business services, up 3,900, including 2,100 jobs added in administrative and support services. That sector was followed by education and health services, up 3,600, including 1,000 jobs added in nursing and residential care facilities.

Read more from The Center Square

Seattle’s general fund and payroll expense tax revenue forecasts include one-time funds

Last week, Seattle’s Office of Economic and Revenue Forecasts (OERF) presented the city’s October revenue forecast for the general fund and several other revenue streams that go to dedicated accounts (including the payroll expense tax).

For the city’s general fund, the forecast estimates that revenues will decline in 2023 and 2024 (year over year). However, that includes expected money from grants and transfers. These items are resources in the general fund, but they would not normally be considered revenues. (For example, the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council doesn’t include in its forecasts estimates of how much the state will transfer from other accounts into funds subject to the outlook.) Instead of appearing in the revenue forecasts, transfers and grants would more appropriately be included in a balance sheet for the general fund (separate from revenues). Grants and transfers are often one-time or must be used for specific purposes. Thus, including them in the revenue forecast may give a false impression about how much the city has to spend on ongoing programs.

If you subtract grants and transfers from the revenue forecast, general fund revenues are expected to grow in each year. (Regardless of whether grants or transfers are included, the general fund forecast is now expected to be $9.8 million higher through 2024 than previously estimated.)

The largest change from the August forecast is in the payroll expense tax (PET), which has already proven to be a volatile revenue source. (For more on the PET, see Washington Research Council's policy brief from earlier this year.) PET revenues for 2021 totaled $292.8 million (including a refund that will be paid this year). Then, PET revenues dropped 13.6% to $253.1 million in 2022 (even as other tax sources increased). The current forecast estimates that PET revenues will increase by 6.2% in 2023 and by 15.3% in 2024. The estimated 2024 increase in PET revenues is the largest among the city’s top tax sources.

Read the rest of the story from the Washington Research Council

Seattle and King County election results: Big change is coming to the Seattle City Council

The November 7 general election featured all seven Seattle City Council seats elected by district, including three Seattle City Councilmembers seeking reelection. Another incumbent City Councilmember was on the ballot but running for a seat on the King County Council.


Citywide Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda is seeking a seat on the King County Council that retiring Councilmember Joe McDermott vacated. Mosqueda won her primary by a 54.75% to 39.77% margin over Sofia Aragon in a 3-way race. The election night results for the general election show a very different result, with Mosqueda ahead by 260 votes in a 50%/50% race. If Councilmember Mosqueda wins the County Council seat, the Seattle City Council will name a person to serve in that citywide seat until filled in the November 2024 general election.


A net gain of 2-4 moderates on the Council. In the City Council races, moderates are positioned to pick up at least two seats (Districts 1 and 3) and are well ahead in District 7. A moderate candidate is also ahead by a narrower margin in District 2. In Districts 4 and 5, the moderate candidates are well ahead in their efforts to succeed moderate Councilmembers Alex Pedersen and Debora Juarez. Although he is slightly behind on election night, Councilmember Dan Strauss is the only incumbent with a good chance of winning reelection. Councilmembers Strauss and Lewis (District 7) are the key swing votes on the current Council.


A net gain of 2 moderate seats – combined with moderates holding Districts 4 and 5 – will form a governing majority with Citywide Councilmember Sara Nelson. The majority could grow to 7 seats, pending Districts 2 and 7 outcomes.


Councilmember Nelson recruited and helped moderate candidates in all seven districts and deserves enormous credit for this outcome. She will be a powerful force on the Council in 2024 and 2025.


It’s important to note that the King County Elections office will continue counting votes for the next few weeks. Historically, the candidates endorsed by The Stranger will pick up a disproportionate share of votes counted after election night. We will provide updates on these races as new results become available over the coming weeks.


See a breakdown of preliminary results for the Seattle and King County Councils here.

2023 statewide General Election update

Eyes were on the Seattle and King County elections. However, WR has been monitoring several key races and initiatives across the state.

Elected Officials:

The larger body of elections will occur in 2024, but several local elected races stood out as critical to retailers.


Seat: Spokane Mayor

Candidates: Incumbent Mayor Nadine Woodward vs. Lisa Brown

Outcome: Lisa Brown won with 51.8% of the vote.

WR Position: Although WR supported and endorsed Mayor Woodward, we look forward to being able to begin working with Mayor-elect Brown to advocate for retailers in Spokane.


Seat: Burien City Council, Position #4

Candidates: Councilman Kevin Schilling vs. Patricia Hudson

Outcome: Kevin Schilling will maintain his position on the city council

WR Position: WR endorsed Councilman Schilling because of his strong support of businesses and retailers, along with his history on the city council.


Seat: Port of Olympia, District 4

Candidates: Rose Chiu Gundersen vs. Maggie Sanders

Outcome: Votes are still being processed. Outcome is to be determined.

WR Position: WR’s Rose Chiu Gundersen ran for one of the newly expanded commissioner seats - District #4. Rose has long been a strong advocate for retailers in Washington State. In addition, her experience of working with lawmakers to create bi-partisan solutions makes her the standout candidate for this position.


Ballot Measures & Initiatives:


Renton and Bellingham both had ballot measures regarding minimum wage increases.


Renton’s “Raise the Minimum Wage” ballot measure sought to increase the minimum wage to match next-door neighbor Tukwila’s $19.06 per hour.

Outcome: Votes are still being processed. Outcome is to be determined.


Bellingham’s initiative 2023-01 called for Bellingham’s minimum wage to be $1 above the state minimum wage of $15.74 an hour on May 1, 2024, and would increase to $2 above the state minimum wage on May 1, 2025.

Outcome: The initiative passed with 54.9% of the vote.


Thurston County’s Proposition 1 is a public safety tax. Proposition 1 would impose a nominal increase in sales tax to 2/10ths of 1%. For reference, tax would increase by 2 cents for every $10.00 spent within Thurston County. The tax revenue would fund public safety efforts in Thurston County.

Outcome: Proposition 1 passed with strong support from voters. WR believes this initiative is one of many solutions to address public safety concerns in Thurston County.

President Biden takes sweeping action on AI governance

President Joe Biden has signed an executive order addressing the need for robust regulations on artificial intelligence (AI). He emphasizes the importance of governing this technology to realize its promise while minimizing associated risks.

The following is a high-level overview of the executive order and next steps from the administration:

Security and privacy standards

The executive order establishes standards for security and privacy protections in AI development, and developers must safety-test new models and submit results to the government before public release.

Combatting deepfakes:

The Commerce Department will develop standards for watermarking AI-generated content, such as deepfakes, to distinguish between real and manipulated audio or images.

Government oversight:

The order leverages the government’s position as a top customer for tech companies to vet technology with national security risks. Federal agencies, including the Departments of Energy, Defense, and Homeland Security, will ensure AI systems do not pose chemical, biological, or nuclear risks.

Congressional action:

President Biden plans to discuss AI and legislation with Congress to develop a bipartisan approach that addresses privacy and other concerns associated with AI. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer advocates for significant investment in AI research and development, aiming to have legislation ready in the coming months.

Global cooperation:

Vice President Kamala Harris and industry leaders will present the U.S. plan for AI governance at a UK-hosted summit with an emphasis on global collaboration to apply existing international rules and norms for promoting global order and stability.

Algorithmic bias and justice:

Biden calls for guidance safeguarding Americans from algorithmic bias in various areas, including housing and government benefit programs. The Justice Department will establish best practices for investigating and prosecuting civil rights violations related to AI, addressing concerns in the criminal justice system.

Immigration and talent:

Immigration officials are urged to reduce visa requirements for overseas talent seeking employment at American AI companies.

President Biden’s executive order marks a significant step toward the United States’ efforts to develop an AI governance framework. The move aligns with global efforts, emphasizing collaboration with allies to promote order and stability in the rapidly advancing AI landscape.

Read the entire executive order.

Washington police are allowed to pursue more suspects. Are they?

In 2021, police were restricted from pursuing suspects for most crimes, emboldening criminals to push the boundaries as a result. During the 2023 legislature, lawmakers took partial steps to fix the pursuit legislation, allowing pursuit for “reasonable suspicion.”

Senate Bill 5352 passed earlier this year, and law enforcement is not, theoretically, allowed to pursue suspected criminals for at least a narrow list of criminal offenses.. While the law that passed fell short of including property crimes, it was at least a step in the right direction. 

Interestingly, some departments, such as SPD, have not yet updated their vehicle pursuit policies despite the new law. 

KIRO radio’s Jason Rantz reported earlier in May that a provision of the new law requires that officers engaging in a pursuit must have completed the emergency vehicle operators course and emergency vehicle operator training within the past two years. Without the completed training, an officer can’t pursue suspected criminals. While the finer details of the training course will change depending on the department, the idea is simple: law enforcement officers should be adept in emergency vehicle maneuvers and safety techniques so that, if they need to pursue, it can be done safely. 

Mike Solan, the president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, told Jason Rantz, “The fact is, we’re out of compliance with the training. If we engage in a pursuit, we’re violating state law.” Apparently, the last time Seattle had its emergency vehicle operations curriculum (EVOC) training, it was back in 2020, and not very many officers attended. 

Read the entire article from Future 42

AI – the new Wild West

Artificial intelligence (AI) has moved beyond its initial niche and is now pervasive in our conversations, headlines, and daily life. Whether on social media or in the news, AI's applications, challenges, and potential societal benefits are hard to ignore.

Tech Interest

Over the past five years, Google Trends indicate a significant increase in searches related to AI, particularly in 2023. The AI conversation is no longer confined to whispers but echoes across industries and households alike.

The catalyst for this surge can be traced back to the end of 2022 when OpenAI unleashed ChatGPT, an open-source AI-powered language model, into the public domain.

The Significance of AI

Artificial Intelligence is more than just a buzzword; it's a transformative force shaping our future. The floodgates have opened, ushering in an era of exploration, curiosity, and, inevitably, some concern.

A Look Back

AI's roots trace back to ancient history. It was written about in the lore of Greek mythology but saw significant development in the 20th century. Alan Turing's foundational concepts and the resilience-testing AI winters are just some of the stories that have shaped AI into the tech we know today.

Interesting Fact

The term "Artificial Intelligence" was coined in 1956. Today, AI powers our smartphones, suggests movies on streaming platforms, and even beats grandmasters in chess.

Join WR for a regular dive into the AI Frontier. Embark on a journey with us as we unravel the intricacies of this ever-evolving technology. From tracing the historical roots of AI to exploring its current and future applications, we'll examine its impact on business, legislative landscapes in Washington state and beyond, and everything in between.

The future of shopping in the age of AI-powered search

In the rapidly evolving landscape of retail, search engines are no longer just tools for finding information—they are becoming integral to the shopping experience. The latest episode of e-Marketer's podcast "Re-Imagining Retail" delved into this transformation and explored how search is reshaping the way we shop today and its trajectory for the future.

The podcast discussed how the integration of generative AI into search functions has made them more conversational and personalized. This evolution is evident in the recent updates by retail giants like Walmart, Instacart, and Amazon, which have introduced AI-powered features to enhance the search experience.

The ultimate goal of search is to reduce friction and present users with what they want as quickly as possible. The introduction of visual search, for instance, allows consumers to find products with just a picture, streamlining the search process. The future of search may see a shift from keyword-based queries to multimodal searches, combining images, conversation, and video to create a richer understanding of user intent.

The podcast also touched on the significant role of retail media in search advertising. With a forecasted growth in retail media ad spend, particularly in search advertising, it is important to balance monetization with user experience. Ads must be relevant and add value to the search, or they risk diminishing the user experience.

The podcast painted a picture of a future where search is not just about finding products but about creating an engaging, efficient, and personalized shopping journey.

Improve safety with new hire orientation buddies

Finding enough time to properly onboard new employees is challenging. The initial orientation has a lot to cover with paperwork and overview of company policies in a short period of time.


Assigning new employees with orientation buddies can help get them off to a safe start. Orientation buddies can show new workers around the workplace while pointing out safety elements the company has built-in, such as, the location of the fire exits and extinguishers, first-aid kits, eyewash stations, SDS, and equipment usage. By imparting safety knowledge along the way, there is a secondary effect of making newcomers feel “valued and informed,” leading to more engaged and productive employees.


To carry out these important duties successfully, orientation buddies should:

  • Have been with the organization for at least one year.
  • Have a good performance history and a safe work record.
  • Be skilled in the new employee's job.
  • Possess broad knowledge about the organization, operations, and safety programs.
  • Have the time to spend with the new employee and be willing to take on the assignment.
  • Be patient and communicate well.
  • Serve as a positive safety role model.

New employees are hesitant about asking questions for fear of appearing incompetent. But, building relationships through this type of mentoring is another way to ensure new employees have the resources they need to succeed. Seasoned employees can help new employees on the job and provide support. 


The company’s orientation program should include easy access to resources to reduce new employee frustration and to provide essential, effective safety training to new hires as soon as they come on board.

Our safety team is available to help members improve their safety program beyond 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




Rose Gundersen

VP of Operations

& Retail Services



Mark Johnson

Senior VP of Policy & Govt. Affairs



Robert B. Haase

Director of