President and CEO Renée Sunde and Contract Lobbyist Bruce Beckett spent Tuesday traveling throughout King County. The team met in district with two of Washington’s key Democrat leaders of state Legislature labor committees to discuss retail industry opportunities and challenges and pending legislation that may significantly impact our members.
The pair met with Senator Karen Keiser, D-33rd, chair of the Labor and Commerce Committee and Representative Mike Sells, D-38th, who is Chair of the Labor and Workplace Standards Committee. Working with Labor & Industries, Keiser and Sells are seeking to expand the pool of employees who would be eligible for overtime pay.
The retail industry has been generating annual records in taxable retail sales that generate more than half of the state’s general fund tax revenues. The vast majority of retailers, some 98 percent, represent small businesses with under 50 employers. These retailers not only offer a variety of jobs but provide necessary goods and services to communities throughout the state.
Feedback from member polling on the impacts of expanding overtime pay eligibility was shared with the representatives.
“It would severely restrict our ability to provide meaningful training and development programs for our employees,” one member told us.
“This could mean reducing our hours of operation which would definitely impact our customers, revenue and the patients we serve in our pharmacies,” a Seattle retailer told us.
L&I would accomplish the expansion of overtime eligibility through a rules change. During our meetings, we requested that the Legislature be assigned to monitor the impacts on retailers with the flexibility to make adjustments as needed.
The meetings with Keiser and Sells were productive and positive and are just the beginning of more outreach we will be doing with state legislators in preparation for the 2020 session and beyond.
WR is communicating its questions and concerns regarding the overtime issue during public hearings that L&I is conducting this summer on the proposed changes in rules. We also plan future meetings with L&I staff to suggest ways to improve the proposal.