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Association of Washington Business – Updated Weekly

 TOP NEWS

 

 

Major businesses pledge increased hours to deal with supply chain backlog

Top American employers have pledged to go “all-in” on 24/7 processing of goods to help unravel a supply chain backlog at major ports, President Joe Biden said last week. He specifically mentioned Walmart, FedEx and UPS.

That announcement came as the president said that the Port of Los Angeles committed to operating throughout the nights and on weekends, joining a recent similar 24/7 announcement by the nearby Port of Long Beach. Together, the two ports handle 40% of the shipping containers coming into the nation.

In Puget Sound, it’s “all hands on deck” at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, said Northwest Seaport Alliance CEO John Wolfe. The ports are adding some night shifts and Saturday operations, but aren’t moving to 24/7 operations.

Expanding hours of operations at the docks alone isn’t enough to solve the project, Wolfe said. Trucks moving containers from terminals to warehouses are also in short supply. The problem is multi-layered, KING 5 reports, with warehouses at capacity, expensive freight surcharges and other issues. It cited one Edmonds-based importer that has gone from paying $3,600 to move a 40-foot container to paying up to $20,000.

As of last Wednesday, about 15 cargo ships were waiting in Puget Sound to unload. Normally there is no wait, and ships are able to cruise into a container dock to unload as soon as they arrive. Having so many ships “loitering offshore” waiting to berth could become a safety concern as weather worsens and wind speeds rise, said Fred Felleman, president of the Port of Seattle Commission.

With the holiday rush coming up, Felleman said, “it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

 

 

Biden administration unveils vaccine mandate specifics; Gov. Inslee suggests stricter rule in Washington

Today is the deadline for most state government, health care and school workers in Washington to be vaccinated or face dismissal. Last week Gov. Jay Inslee said that more than 90% of state workers have submitted their proof of vaccination.

The immunization rate varies by agency, according to the Office of Financial Management, with Department of Commerce hitting 96%, Department of Agriculture at 79% and one outlet of the Department of Veterans Affairs at 67% vaccination.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sent its emergency temporary standard (ETS) to the White House last week for review. This is the standard requiring employers in the private sector with 100 or more employees to either mandate vaccines or test employees on a weekly basis. More than 130,000 businesses across the U.S. will fall under the new rules, which will apply to roughly two-thirds of the private sector workforce, CNBC reports.

At a press availability last week, Gov. Inslee indicated he will likely seek to impose a stricter standard in Washington for private-sector employers that removes the testing option. This would make it even harder for employers who are struggling with workforce issues to retain and hire the employees they need.

AWB is watching this issue closely, as it is generating numerous questions from employers. We will share details as we get them in an upcoming webinar. Stay tuned for additional information.

Meanwhile, in response to the Biden administration vaccine’s requirement for federal contractors, Boeing announced that its employees must be vaccinated by Dec. 8 or apply for an exemption.

 

 

As deadline nears, new long-term care program and tax draw concerns and rush to opt-out

On Jan. 1, 58 cents out of every hundred dollars Washington workers earn will begin being taken out in a payroll tax to fund the new WA Cares long-term care program. There is only one opportunity to opt-out and a looming deadline, but that process is riddled with difficulties, including a market-distorting rush for private insurance plans and a crash of the state’s exemption request website.

AWB has been leading a coalition of employers, local governments and labor unions calling on Gov. Inslee to immediately work with the Legislature to address these problems with the long-term care insurance program and tax.

The Seattle Times editorial board joined that effort last week, calling on Gov. Jay Inslee to “use his emergency powers to temporarily suspend the tax and extend deadlines for WA Cares, as 23 state senators have requested.”

In a new policy brief, the Washington Research Council takes a deeper look at the bigger question: Should Washington be in the long-term care insurance business?

The research council’s conclusion, in part: “The overall cost of the program may be too high for the level of benefits provided, it excludes vested individuals who move away, and the fund is already expected to be insolvent within 75 years. Given all this, it’s not clear the state should stay in this business.”

Contact Government Affairs Director Amy Anderson or Bob Battles to learn more and get involved.

 

 

Gov. Inslee and Sen. Murray call for new report on replacing functions of Snake River dams

Gov. Jay Inslee last week told a virtual gathering of environmentalists that he and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., are exploring options to breach the lower Snake River dams and replace the benefits they provide.

Inslee said he has still not decided whether or not to support breaching or removing the dams, but “it seems highly unlikely this new process could conclude in a way that recommends the lower Snake dams remain in place,” Northwest RiverPartners said Friday.

It is difficult to see what this new effort will bring to the discussion. Last summer federal agencies completed a comprehensive four-year Environmental Impact Statement for the federal power system on the Columbia and Snake rivers and found that breaching the dams would increase the region’s greenhouse gas emissions by over 4.6 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. The final EIS recommendation was an adjusted spill schedule for the dams that prioritizes fish survival and is very similar to the same agreement the state Department of Ecology made in early 2019.

The dams on the lower Snake River provide a variety of benefits that would be hard to replace, from irrigation water, a low-carbon water transport route for crops and other products, and – most importantly – hundreds of megawatts of carbon-free electrical generation. The Bonneville Power Administration credited the lower Snake River dams with preventing power outages and rolling blackouts in the Tri-Cities during this summer’s record-breaking heatwave.

“TRIDEC is proud of the great work that has been done to ensure that these dams provide excellent fish passage, and we continue to believe that salmon and dams can coexist,” said David Reeploeg, Tri-City Development Council vice president for federal programs.

The Pacific Northwest’s hydroelectric dams are an important competitive advantage for Washington with their low-cost, renewable hydropower. Earlier this month AWB’s Manufacturing Week bus drove across a dam to highlight the importance of hydropower to the Northwest economy. Contact AWB Government Affairs Director Peter Godlewski to learn more.

 

 

Washington earns national praise for ‘huge investments’ in early childhood development

A new national report on early childhood education and child care identifies Washington as a leader, in part due to the 2021 Fair Start for Kids Act.

“What Washington has done has been pretty amazing. It’s among a handful of states that have made huge investments in childhood development,” said Cynthia Osborne, an associate dean for academic strategies at The University of Texas at Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs. The school runs the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center, which recently issued a state-by-state Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap.

AWB has been a strong supporter of increased emphasis on family child care needs, especially ways to support private-sector early childhood education and child care facilities that struggled even before the pandemic, and even more since.

AWB supported and helped formulate the policy proposals in the Fair Start for Kids Act, although we opposed the taxation included in the bill. Instead, we called on the Legislature to fund early childhood education investments with the state’s ample existing revenues, savings from decreased regulations, federal infusion of dollars, and a stepped approach to funding would have adequately funded these policies without the need for new revenue.

AWB Government Affairs Director Amy Anderson is co-chair of Washington’s Child Care Collaborative Task Force. Contact Anderson to learn more and get involved.

 

 FEDERAL ISSUES

 

Manufacturers push back on tax increases in possible budget reconciliation bill

As Democrats push forward on a possible $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package known as the Build Back Better bill, hundreds of small manufacturing firms are sending a message to Congress opposing tax increases on manufacturers in the proposal.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., are also keeping up pressure to include a broad array of spending increases in the reconciliation bill.

Contact AWB’s Amy Anderson for more information.

 

US to reopen land borders in November for fully vaccinated

The United States will reopen its northern and southern land borders to fully vaccinated nonessential travelers next month. That will end a 19-month freeze due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Vehicle, rail and ferry travel between the U.S. Canada and Mexico has been mostly restricted to essential travel.

The new rules announced last week will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. for tourism and other travel starting in early November, which is when a similar easing of restrictions for air travel kicks in.

 

 OTHER NEWS

 

Columbia Bank and Umpqua Bank to merge; holding company will be based in Tacoma

Tacoma-based Columbia Banking System and its subsidiary Columbia Bank will merge with Portland-based Umpqua Holdings Corp., the parent company of Umpqua Bank. The newly formed bank’s holding company will be headquartered in Tacoma.

The combined bank will have about 350 branches and 6,000 total employees. The Puget Sound Business Journal has more.

 

Amazon Air launches at Spokane International Airport

Amazon.com is flying daily air-cargo shipments out of Spokane International Airport through its Amazon Air affiliate, which operates out of more than 35 American airports. This is the second Amazon Air location in Washington. The first is in Bellevue.

Amazon Air will hire more than 50 employees locally for the operations.

 

Pierce County Democrats select three candidates to replace retiring Sen. Darneille

With longtime legislator Sen. Jeannie Darneille retiring later this fall, the elected Pierce County Council will pick a replacement from among three finalists selected last week by the county’s Democratic precinct committee officers.

The three candidates are Yasmin Trudeau, legislative director for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office; Desiree Wilkins Finch, a community organizer and the owner of consultant agency RISE Leadership with Purpose; and LaMont Green, the director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the policy nonprofit Technical Assistance Collaborative.

 

Vancouver firm highlights National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Ryonet, a printing company in Vancouver, has put together a story and video for National Disability Employment Awareness Month about two members of its 100-person team who have disabilities and who are highly valued members of the print company’s staff.

Washington state ranks No. 20 in the nation in states hiring for disability employment.

“Our goal is to get this story out to more businesses that could be candidates to employ more of this community and ultimately positively affect them and our PDX community as a whole,” said Ryonet CEO Ryan Moor, who noted that his firm worked with Trillium Employment Services, an employment agency serving adults with developmental disabilities.

 

AWB CompWise Workers’ Comp Retro Program Returns nearly $17 million to members

As one of the state’s top performing programs, AWB’s CompWise Retro program is helping members reduce upfront Labor & Industries premium payments and earn significant premium refunds while at the same time helping employers maintain a safe workplace for employees.

Retro groups are available for employers in the following industries: manufacturing, retail/wholesale/service, hospitality and facilities/property management.

If your company isn’t already a CompWise participant, we encourage you to visit www.compwise.org for more information or to contact joeb@compwise.org for a no-cost, no-obligation proposal tailored to your company that includes details on your premium refund potential.

 

 AWB EVENTS & RESOURCES

 

 

Registration now open for Nov. 1 remote work class

A new program to equip rural residents with the skills needed to compete for remote work in the post-pandemic economy begins its next class on Nov. 1.

The Remote Work Certificate course is a one-month, 30-hour, completely online professional certificate program that helps prepare participants to be an effective remote worker. The next class is scheduled to begin Nov. 1, and students must register by Oct. 27.

A pilot project was recently completed in North Central Washington and is now being expanded to Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille, Okanogan, Grant, and Adams counties.

 

 

Holiday Kids' Tree project to help families in rural communities

The last year and a half of pandemic hardship has affected the finances of many families in rural communities. Thankfully, AWB’s Holiday Kids’ Tree project has been around since 1989 to help families provide for their children.

Last year, record-breaking donations from members like you helped 16 rural fire districts in 14 counties provide 425 families with food and toys. Similar aid will be needed this year, possibly more than ever before.

Grays Harbor Fire District #1 in Oakville reports, “We on the front line get to see how special this is to our community, both to the children and their parents that struggle and lose sleep worrying about how to provide Christmas for their children. Thank you AWB and all those who donated. You all ran the Grinch out of our community!”

As you set your budget for this next year, consider setting up monthly installments or donating now toward this hope-filled effort. Tax-deductible sponsorships are appreciated at any level and participation is highlighted proudly year-round on our contributors’ webpage.

For more information, please contact Bonnie Millikan at 360.943.1600. DONATE TODAY.

 

 TWEET OF THE WEEK

 

 

 THEY SAID IT

 

“When any portion of the supply chain starts to be stretched to the limits, it’s like a domino effect. When one domino falls … the other pieces of the supply chain then start to fail, and that’s what we’re experiencing.”John Wolfe, CEO of The Northwest Seaport Alliance, which oversees container traffic for both the Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma.
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