August 12, 2019
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Employers speak up about $80,000 exempt salary requirement

Employers in the Tri-Cities "are taking a dim view of a plan to raise the minimum salary in Washington to 250 percent of minimum wage — or nearly $80,000 a year — for executive, administrative and other salaried workers who don’t receive overtime pay," The Tri-City Herald reports after a hearing in Kennewick on the rules for salaried employees proposed by the Department of Labor & Industries.

L&I proposes multiplying the minimum wage by 2.5 (or 250 percent) to set the amount an employee must be paid to be exempt from overtime. Employers have said that level is too high, and that the multiplying factor be set at 200% or less.

Steve Simmons, owners of CG Public House, a Tri-Cities restaurant and caterer, said such a steep increase on wages for salaried workers could hinder his ability to build his business and hire more people. He also noted that his employees bring a wide variety of skill levels to the job, and that he recruits workers with disabilities and barriers to employment.

Nolan Lockwood, who owns Harvest Foods in Walla Walla, said he has already had to cut his workforce by 11 people (down to 27 employees) due to the increase in the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage for salaried or exempt workers could put him out of business, he said. He noted that he has decided not to renew his lease in 2020.

AWB Government Affairs Director Bob Battles has been following this issue closely, and created this issue brief with details. A new AWB Amplified video looks at the issue from the perspective of employees and nonprofits.

The final public hearing will be held this Thursday, Aug. 15, in Vancouver.

Contact Battles to learn more and speak up on this proposed change.

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Solutions Needed

Washington's China trade dilemma

By The Seattle Times Editorial Board

Trade-dependent Washington state is in a tight spot as the U.S.-China trade war escalates.

Voters should start thinking now about what course they'd like to see the White House take if the trade war continues beyond 2020.

While just 37% of Washingtonians voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, the majority are now depending on him to successfully address China's ongoing theft of intellectual-property and unfair trade practices harming the state's economy.

Whether Trump's unpredictability, bombast and use of tariffs as a bludgeon result in a good outcome remains to be seen. Patience with his tactics will wear thinner if there's no progress this year and the U.S. enters a recession. Then the risk is that Trump caves, letting China off the hook and giving Wall Street a bump ahead of the election.

Both parties share some blame. The Democrats' 2016 presidential candidate joined Trump in turning against the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiated by President Obama. That multilateral trade agreement could have prevented this dispute. It would have imposed fair-trade rules around the Pacific Rim. That bloc would pressure China to comply without resorting to blunt and painful tariffs. Still undetermined is whether Trump has the right strategy, tactics and execution...

Republicans must be ready to seek change if Trump fails, and Democrats must be ready with an equal or better strategy to address China's unfair practices and improve trade relations.

Read the full editorial in The Seattle Times
Lawsuits Aren't the Answer on Climate

No Matter Which Way You Turn, Climate Litigation Hits the AEP Precedent Roadblock

By the Manufacturers' Accountability Project

Plaintiffs and supporters of the climate lawsuits filed against energy manufacturers are cheering recent decisions by federal judges to send cases in Rhode Island, Baltimore, and several California jurisdictions to state courts. The proponents of the cases are desperate to escape federal court, which have continually rejected climate liability suits. But, those cheers will be short-lived, as the cases have no more validity in state court. Mitigating the impacts of climate change is not a liability issue for either state or federal court. Selling and using energy is not a violation of tort law; it is necessary to modern life. Figuring out how best to address climate change concerns along with other key aspects of national energy policy, including affordability and energy independence, is the province of Congress and federal agencies.

In American Electric Power (AEP) v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court made these points abundantly clear, stating that the judiciary is not the venue for making climate change public policy judgments:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote the unanimous majority opinion, stressed that setting national energy policy to account for climate change concerns was "within national legislative power," and that Congress and EPA are "better equipped to do the job than individual district judges issuing ad hoc, case-by-case" decisions...

What has become clear is that climate change is a shared global challenge whose solution won't be found in a courtroom. Rhode Island and the other communities that want to do something about climate change should join with manufacturers on energy innovations, not target them for baseless litigation.

Read the full column from the National Association of Manufacturers