The GSBA Blog

  • July Updates to Washington State Overtime Rules: What You Need to Know

    by GSBA Staff
    | Aug 03, 2020

    As businesses prepare to move past COVID-19 and into budgets for the coming years, they will need to factor in the updated Washington state overtime rules going into effect this year. Beginning July 1, 2020, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) will begin a phased-in approach to the newly updated rules to Minimum Wage Act exemptions, with a plan to have them fully implemented by January 2028. The updated rules will require businesses to provide overtime, minimum wage and paid sick leave to some previously exempt employees. These updated rules impact outside salespeople, computer professionals and executive, administrative and professional (EAP) workers across the state.

    Over the next eight years, the State overtime rules will increase the minimum exempt salary to 2.5 times the state’s minimum wage, to do this they will have two groups, employers under 50 employees, and more than 50 employees, with all sizes of companies reaching that salary threshold by January 1, 2028. This increase to the salary threshold will be slowly phased in depending on the size of companies, with those businesses employing 50 or fewer people being the slowest slowest group to fully transition.

    In order to remain “exempt,” workers must typically be salaried and meet salary threshold requirements, as well as perform specified executive, administrative, professional, outside sales or computer professional job duties as defined by state regulations.

    The updated rules will be the first major changes to state overtime rules since the 1970s and will also include changes to the job duties tests used to determine if an employee can be classified as “exempt” or “non-exempt,” bringing Washington State more in line with federal standards.

    Options for Washington Employers

    There are multiple options available to employers in determining the best course of action for their business.

    1. Employers may opt to convert salaried “exempt” employees to salaried “non-exempt” or hourly “non-exempt” and pay any overtime or limit hours to 40 per week.
    2. Employers may also decide to continue keeping their employees salaried “exempt”, ensuring that they meet the duties test requirements, as well as updated salary requirements.

    For further information on the rule updates, and to stay informed, please visit the resources listed below.

    Changes to Overtime Rules - Department of Labor & Industries Website

    Department of Labor & Industries News Release

    Overtime Rules Factsheet

    Read the Official Rule Language in Chapter 296-128 of the Washington Administrative Code

    Executive, Administrative, & Profession Exemption eLearning Module

    For additional information, or any other questions related to L & I or City of Seattle Labor Laws, please contact Levi Coffin at Business Training Specialist & Grant Manager at GSBA.
  • Statement on Hateful Speech at Protests

    by Louise Chernin, President & CEO
    | Aug 02, 2020
    To our members and community:

    During this time of great racial unrest, emotions are high, anger is rightfully at the surface and understandably spilling out.  Given the urgency of the times, it feels like there is no time for politeness, not when people’s lives and their humanity are at stake. Yet, knowing all of this, it is still wrong to either accept or make racist, misogynist and homophobic slurs, like those being hurled by demonstrators going to the homes of our elected officials. GSBA strongly condemns any racist, misogynistic, and homophobic slurs that have been repeatedly leveled at our Mayor and our City Councilmembers. This includes homophobic comments against Mayor Durkan, and the frequent misogynistic and racist comments directed especially at Seattle's councilwomen.
    What is most unfortunate is that these tactics are being increasingly common, even at City Council hearings. We have small business owners and community leaders who will no longer testify at City Hall, since they are then subjected to brutal attacks on social media and at their place of business.
    I have no doubt, the extremism in actions and speech is fed by the toxic behavior and encouragement of the bullying tactics of our current administration.  But, if we are to make meaningful and lasting changes to our institutions, we will need to find a way to come together to work on solutions. Anger is understandable and activism is essential, but hateful rhetoric, speech that uses racist, homophobic, or misogynistic taunts are bullying tactics that will not undo systemic racism but could very well result in deeper divisions and backlash. It’s not a time to ask for calm when rage is appropriate, but it is always the right time to refrain from hateful speech. Let’s not engage in it or tolerate it in others.
    Louise Chernin, GSBA President & CEO

  • Meet Chivon Ou, Nursing Student & First-Year GSBA Scholar

    by GSBA Staff
    | Jul 27, 2020
    Meet First-year GSBA Scholar (and awardee of the Wozumi Family Scholarship) and nursing student, Chivon Ou.

    Chivon OuChivon was raised in Hillsboro, OR and now lives in Vancouver, WA as a student attending the University of Portland. He is a first-generation, Khmer-American student pursuing an undergraduate degree in Nursing with a Neuroscience Minor. Inspired by the stories of his parents’ survival as refugees of the Khmer Rouge regime, Chivon aspires to become a nurse researcher to serve communities that are disproportionately affected by trauma. One of Chivon’s long-term goals is to invalidate the practice of conversion therapy with research. He also has an interest in pursuing research related to HIV using his experience as a biomedical intern. Chivon hopes that along his journey he will inspire LGBTQ youth to confidently pursue their ambitions.

    Chivon, what has it been like to be a student on the frontlines of COVID-19?

    To be a student nurse in the middle of such an unprecedented pandemic is truly an exciting yet concerning experience. As we learn more about COVID-19, communities on the ground serve as testament to the fact that healthcare and politics are intertwined. In my nursing classes, we discussed case studies about how the pandemic is disproportionately affecting minority communities, especially the LGBTQ and communities of color.

    What are some of those challenges?

    I have learned that stress as a result of forms of discrimination has been proven to increase the risk for hypertension and generalized anxiety disorder as a result of the body's overstimulated cortisol stress response. I think that this is an especially important health concern with regards to the Asian-American and immigrant communities as we have unfortunately seen a rise in xenophobia, which I can testify to as a member in Portland’s APANO. It doesn’t help that at the national level, there currently is an anti-China/immigrant/LGBTQ narrative which inevitably has been used by some to justify the scapegoating of our nation’s Asian-American, immigrant, and/or LGBTQ communities.

    How do you plan to use your experiences and voice to make a difference?

    I hope as a first-generation Asian-American nursing student myself, I will achieve my goal in helping to push back on this narrative by giving back to my community as a nurse. As a gay nursing student, I hope to also push back on the idea that my sexuality somehow compromises me as a nurse employee as this unfortunately happens to be a belief held by some employers. If anything, I believe that my experiences coming out as gay and studying how discrimination affects the health of minority populations will help me to become a more adept healthcare provider for the disenfranchised communities of our nation.
  • Statement on Federal Interventions & Protests

    by Louise Chernin, President & CEO
    | Jul 24, 2020
    Capitol Hill has always been a place for Seattle's protests. Protesting is part of the fabric of our neighborhood, and it is part of the reason many of us love it here. Our whole region comes here to be with one another, whether it's to celebrate marriage equality, commemorate Pride, stand up for trans lives, or to protest police brutality and institutional racism.  

    Capitol Hill is a vibrant community, home to a large number of small businesses, arts organizations and schools, and it is also the historic and cultural center of the LGBTQ community. Our businesses, nonprofits, and community leaders overwhelmingly support the Black Lives Matter movement and are committed to working to end systemic racism. We support those demonstrating, including many within our organization, and stand with those who are speaking out against racial injustice and police brutality.

    These are hard times for everyone, and for our small business owners who were closed for months because of COVID-19, forced to close again because of the police response to the protests, and then lost access to their businesses during the occupation. Just as our small businesses are starting to open, our customers returning and our local residents are feeling comfortable to go out again, they are again faced with trying to save their small businesses from being permanently closed because of groups coming up to the Hill to smash windows, loot storefronts, and even set fires. It is frightening for all who work or live on Capitol Hill.

    When your local neighborhood businesses close, you lose your gathering spot, your places to shop, eat, and socialize, and the local culture that makes a neighborhood. As word spreads that this is not a safe neighborhood, a small business owner loses their customers, and those who live here fear walking in their own neighborhood. Protesting injustice is important and must continue, but so is the safety of all who enjoy being part of the Capitol Hill culture. This is a public safety issue. 

    We expect the local police to respond when they need to intervene to prevent violent behavior. We are strongly opposed to Federal troops intervening, violating our civil rights, and escalating violent confrontations. We hope that everyone - residents, workers, and protesters alike – denounce violent destruction so that we remain focused on the important issue of coming together as a community to address and dismantle systemic racism, in our homes, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, healthcare system, housing, police departments, and the entire judicial system.

    For peace and racial justice,
    Louise Chernin, GSBA President & CEO
    Capitol Hill Business Alliance

  • Seattle Passes COVID Relief & JumpStart Spending Plans

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Jul 20, 2020

    Earlier this afternoon two important bills for Seattle’s small businesses passed City Council unanimously. These two bills are counterparts to the JumpStart legislation passed two weeks ago. GSBA has been involved with the authors of both these bills for the last several months and worked hard to ensure that efforts to provide relief to small businesses and nonprofits actually provide significant amounts of the relief that small businesses themselves say they need. 

    While we are disappointed that funding to small businesses and nonprofits was not always kept at levels we urged, the efforts funded in both these bills will provide real, concrete help as we work through this unprecedented economic crisis. The needs in our city are immediate and significant, and these efforts will help make a difference. In a survey of our Seattle members, 60% supported the City raising new revenue to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and housing crisis. A plurality supported the JumpStart plans specifically.

    We want to thank the many hours of work that went into the crafting of these spending plans. In particular, we are deeply appreciative of Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda and her office for the months of outreach and partnership that went into these efforts. Additionally, we thank Councilmember Dan Strauss for his work around the Small Business Stabilization Fund and ensuring that it is available to the businesses who are in the greatest need.

    Council Bill 119812
    This ordinance is the COVID-19 economic relief plan for the remainder of 2020 and 2021, with money from Seattle’s rainy day fund. $86 million will be appropriated to provide support for small businesses, low-income and low-wage individuals and families, immigrants, and refugees. 

    This bill adds $14.1 million to the Small Business Stabilization Fund, which will mean $10,000 grants to an additional 1,300 small businesses and nonprofits in Seattle. A separate $3.6 million is set aside specifically to support child care providers, and $300,000 is allocated to support training and technical assistance. An amendment to the bill today changed the eligibility threshold for the Small Business Stabilization Fund, raising business size to 25 FTEs (up from 5 employees), requires an equitable distribution across Seattle neighborhoods, and states that businesses who received funds in the previous round will not be eligible for additional assistance.

    Also part of this bill, $36 million will go to immediate housing needs, $18 million to immigrant and refugee support, and $14 million to the Emergency Grocery Voucher program.

    Resolution 31957
    This resolution is the document showing the intent of how the money raised in the JumpStart Seattle payroll tax will be spent starting in 2022. The City estimates that the payroll tax will raise approximately $219 million per year, the majority of which will be dedicated to low income housing. Overall, the following funding has been allocated:

             Housing and Services - 62% (est. $135 million)
       Equitable Development Initiative - 9% (est. 20 million)
       Economic Revitalization - 15% (est. 33 million)
       Green New Deal - 9% (est. $20 million)

    GSBA appreciates the additional investment in the Equitable Development Initiative, which may be used to support community-initiated equitable development projects that advance economic mobility and opportunity, prevent residential, commercial, and cultural displacement, build on local cultural assets, promote transportation mobility and connectivity, develop healthy and safe neighborhoods, and enable equitable access to all neighborhoods.

    The economic revitalization package is the part that GSBA has been most closely paying attention to. This funding will support local businesses and tourism to spur the local economic recovery and to provide economic stability for the city’s workforce. This funding is intended to address the economic hardship small business owners and their employees, and nonprofit organizations and their employees, have experienced due to loss of business income, grant funding reductions, increased operational costs, etc., as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. The efforts will focus on marginalized populations.

    This resolution sets up a workgroup that will be convened by the Mayor and include representatives from City departments,small businesses, labor representatives, and others to elaborate on these intentions and fine-tune where the funding will be allocated. GSBA fully intends to continue our involvement and advocate for the needs of our small business and nonprofit members in this workgroup in whatever capacity we are able.

    What is next?
    We know that these bills are not the end of the discussion. The JumpStart working group still needs to be convened to finalize where the economic revitalization money will be allocated. Washington State Representative Nicole Macri appears to be planning a statewide payroll tax that could supercede this Seattle effort (at all stages Seattle City Council has indicated that they would also prefer a statewide solution and the JumpStart bill includes a drawdown clause if the state implements a similar payroll tax). GSBA remains committed to representing the voice and needs of our membership at whatever level of government this discussion is taking place. 

  • Capitol Hill Small Business Survey Results

    by Christina Arrington, Business Development Manager
    | Jul 17, 2020
    The Capitol Hill Business Alliance (CHBA) conducted an independent survey of small businesses in the neighborhood from June 16th to June 26th, 2020. 

    Questions covered basic demographic information, the ongoing pandemic, protests against police brutality, CHOP, and damages suffered by neighborhood businesses. 78 businesses responded to the survey. The survey was conducted while CHOP was still ongoing, though its physical presence has since wound down.

    The information provided in this survey will be shared with policymakers at all levels to ensure that Capitol Hill small businesses are provided the assistance that they need.
  • Seattle payroll tax moves forward

    by GSBA Staff
    | Jul 13, 2020

    Since 2018, GSBA has given the Seattle City Council and the Mayor feedback on the impact that a head tax or payroll tax would have on small business. Our position has always been that any tax leveraged against business would be most effective at the state or regional level, should provide support for small business, and should be tiered. Whether or not this is a wise time for a new tax, GSBA also recognizes the large budget shortfall our city is facing and the need for revenue to fill in that shortfall, help in the recovery and address our long term housing and homelessness crisis. 

    After Councilmember Mosqueda introduced the JumpStart payroll tax, GSBA expressed concern of how a tax levied in a time of economic crisis could negatively impact Seattle by resulting in businesses either leaving the City or not bringing back all employees. After lengthy discussions with our Public Policy Council and Board and doing a membership survey, GSBA worked closely with Councilmember Mosqueda to try and minimize the impact that this bill would have on mid-sized businesses as well any negative trickle down it could have on small businesses. Although GSBA still believes a regional tax would be best, our membership did express support for new revenue; although it was split on whether or not the JumpStart bill was the best way to bring in new revenue. There were some aspect of the final version of tax mechanism that passed that we were not pleased with, including a lengthier sunset provision than originally proposed. 

    We will continue to work with the City Council on how funds raised will be invested back in the community, most especially to support the recovery of small business.

    Below are the details of the bill that was passed with a 7-2 vote.

    The City will start assessing this tax in 2021 and will start collecting it in 2022. A quick reminder of which businesses with employees in Seattle qualify for this tax, and the rates they will pay:

    For businesses with Seattle payrolls of $7M to $99.9M:
    - No tax on salaries under $150,000
    - 0.7% tax on salaries of $150,000-$399,999
    - 1.7% on salaries over $400,000

    For businesses with Seattle payroll between $100M and $999.9M:
    - No tax on salaries under $150,000
    - 0.7% tax on salaries of $150,000-$399,999
    - 1.9% tax on salaries over $400,000

    For businesses with Seattle payrolls of $1B or more:
    - No tax on salaries under $150,000
    - 1.4% tax on salaries between $150,000 to $399,999
    - 2.4% tax on salaries over $400,000

    City Council is introducing the separate ordinance to cover the spending package on Monday, July 13, which will be voted in committee on Wednesday, July 15, and presumably face a final vote in full Council chambers on Monday, July 20. Our priorities remain ensuring that funding intended to support the economic resiliency of small businesses in their recovery from the pandemic is actually used to support those small businesses.

  • GSBA Members Get Creative to Amplify GSBA Scholarship Fund

    by GSBA Staff
    | Jun 26, 2020

    This year, we've been amazed to see all of the creative ways GSBA Members have used their talents to amplify and give back the GSBA Scholarship Fund throughout Pride month, and sometimes year-round. Take a look at a few of these wonderful products and where you can purchase them to support LGBTQ students:

    Goose Ridge Winery: Cascadian Rainbow Rosé103130509_10158045846423500_1729328958899894861_o
    Your porch-side downtime in the sun definitely could use a few of these cans of sparkling rosé. A portion of the sales of this refreshing, Washington-made wine benefits the Scholarship Fund.

    Aluel Cellars: The Scholar Wine
    You can pick up a bottle of this Bordeaux-style red blend at Aluel's tasting room on Harvard & Thomas in Capitol Hill for just $19.90 - a price honoring the Fund's founding year of 1990.

    Intentionalist: Spend Like it Matters T-Shirts 
    Wear your Pride, showing your support for small businesses and the communities who build them. For every shirt sold, 15% of the proceeds will go to the GSBA Scholarship Fund and Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County.

    Pride truffleSeattle Chocolates: Pride Truffle Bag
    Celebrate Pride with this party-sized bag of colorful rainbow truffles loaded with delectable flavors like champagne, blackberry creme, and hiker's trail mix. A percentage of sales from each Pride Truffle Bag benefit GSBA Scholars year-round, not just during Pride month.

    Seattle Cider: Sparkling Papaya
    Celebrate Pride with Seattle Cider Co. and their BRAND NEW sparkling flavor - papaya! For every Papaya Pride can sold, a portion is invested in GSBA Scholars.

    Elsom Cellars: Adventure Uncorked
    Now through the end of July, Elsom Cellars will be donating $2 for every bottle of #adventureuncorked to the GSBA Scholarship Fund. You can order online or pick up a bottle next time you go down for a tasting at the cellars' SoDo tasting room.

    GSBA Scholars need your support.

    Due to the pandemic, many of our scholars are facing unemployment and increasing financial stress - on top of remote learning. Your support now helps support our scholars stay enrolled, on the path towards graduation, and helps set them up for success as LGBTQ leaders in the workplace. Here are some ways you can help:

    1) Send us your message of support and we will share these with our scholars. When a student knows that there is a community of adults who believes in them, it can have a huge impact on their emotional, social, and academic well-being.

    2) Make a donation to the Scholarship Fund. If you have any capacity at this time, your support of our scholars is a great way to honor Pride month and invest in the LGBTQ community.

    3) Consider an additional donation to bolster the GSBA Beeks Family Open Arms Fund that provides emergency funding for health, housing and food needs for our scholars in this stressful time. Leave a note in the comments to designate your gift.

  • Larry Kramer: An Appreciation

    by Phil Bereano, The AMP: AIDS Memorial Pathway
    | Jun 25, 2020

    Larry Kramer is dead. The news came not unexpectedly, given his ill-health, but still with shocking force. Who will hound the Establishment now when the need is again great? Who will rally the people, even if he (or she) is so extreme that allies are alienated almost as frequently as enemies? Do we appreciate what Kramer was able to do and what his legacy to us actually is?

    AIDS was a terrifying epidemic, especially among gay men. In the early days when little was known about it, we were told that sexual activity spread the virus. If you wanted to be safe, you would have to alter or forego expressing your sexuality. Kramer’s position was that gay men should stop having sex. Period. For a group that was defined by having sex, its own special sex, that was not a popular point of view.

    Kramer seemed willing, though, to operate on a two-track philosophy, because in 1982 he also organized a meeting that led to the formation of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. The outcasts would force their way into the public dialogue, take the lead in policy proposals, and even get knowledgeable about viral biology. Other cities organized similar advocacy groups as well, some with highly technical medical newsletters. Although Kramer would be annoyed that some of these organizations were not more than hopeful pickup spots. The origination of these groups was something novel though—based on elements from the emerging calls for patients’ rights and the growing women’s healthcare movement (“Our Bodies, Ourselves,” gentlemen). The notions of “safe sex” evolved incorporating both Kramer’s reticence and the power of gay sexual liberation. Eventually, for most gay men, condoms just became part of the action.

    In the meantime, growing impatient with GMHC’s emphasis on providing social services and cozying up to politicians and drug company officials, Kramer wrote a widely read article “ 1,112 and Counting” where he railed against the willful ignorance of the immense toll the AIDS epidemic was taking. (Strangely similar to current calls for increased action as we mark 100,000 dead of COVID-19).

    His most significant writing about AIDS is surely the drama “The Normal Heart.” Somewhat autobiographical, definitely shaped by politics around the disease, this play’s emotional impact clearly enlisted many allies and raised the level of the struggle against the governmental and pharmaceutical bureaucracies.

    Larry Kramer kept being his ornery self. Eventually GMHC maneuvered him out of power within the organization and finally out of the group all together. In 1987 he founded a new organization that would channel the rowdiness he and others were feeling—ACT/UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. Polite political discourse was abandoned in favor of mass direct action—whether bodies in street “die-ins,” art wheatpasted on walls or worn on t-shirts, and disruption of the norms officials expected at meetings.

    Before Dr. Anthony Fauci was the current savvy voice of scientific reason in the government, he was a mere bureaucrat, dragging his heels. Among other actions designed to get him to treat the epidemic with more urgency, I organized an ACT/UP protest in San Francisco at a professional meeting I was attending where he was receiving a prestigious award; screaming “your red tape is killing us,” 4 or 5 guys wrapped the room and the participants in red ribbons. Chutzpah was the new normal and Fauci has often acknowledged his own evolution in this regard. Important changes occurred, as a result, also at the Food and Drug Administration where drugs were sometimes distributed before testing was completed under a concept of “compassionate release”. Kramer’s was one of the loudest voices calling for such reforms. (And they still exist, to the benefit of many people suffering from other diseases.)

    Kramer’s ideas for ACT/UP formed a template which has influenced the tactics of many subsequent movements—of Occupy activists, of the struggle for social recognition of the high incidence of breast cancer, of #BlackLivesMatter, and of #MeToo, for example. AIDS Groups modeled on Kramer’s initiative were started around the world. ACT/UP Paris began in the summer of 1989 by some guys who had been to New York City. During a sabbatical in Paris that Fall, grieving from the death of my lover, I went to their weekly meetings. In fact, action with the group led to my spending my only night ever in jail—for stenciling political slogans on the sidewalks of the Marais. On December 1st, World AIDS Day, we hung a giant banner between the two towers of Notre-Dame Cathedral: “Oui Aux Capotes,” “Yes to Condoms.” French TV loved it!

    Larry Kramer ignited the indignation of thousands of People With AIDS and their lovers, friends, and relatives. Although Kramer was not religious, my thoughts go back to the passage in the Talmud that says “if you save a single life, it is as if you saved the universe entire.” It is not far-fetched to say that Kramer’s irascibility and activism has played a role in saving the lives of everyone today who lives with HIV. What a legacy!


    Phil Bereano is a member of the Community Action Group of The AMP: AIDS Memorial Pathway being constructed in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, and was one of the co-founders of ACT/UP Seattle.

  • GSBA Celebrates US Supreme Court Decision to Continue DACA

    by GSBA Staff
    | Jun 18, 2020

    It has been a week of frankly unexpected good news from the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition to Monday's decision on workplace protections for LGBTQ people, this morning we woke up to the news that the Trump administration's attempts to end the DACA program were rejected. This means that the program can continue for now, and that thousands of immigrant youth will remain protected from deportation.

    dacaThe Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals - DACA - program was enacted by an executive order by President Obama in 2012. It allows some immigrants who arrived in the country as children to receive a renewable deferral of deportation and become eligible for work permits. Around 700,000 people are currently part of the DACA program.

    GSBA has consistently supported the cause of DACA recipients. We know that many GSBA Scholars and GSBA members benefit from the DACA program. Their contributions to our society and to our organization are tremendous. We know that there are also many immigrants who are ineligible for DACA protections, but who are likewise important contributors and participants to our society. This decision found that the Trump administration did not follow proper legal procedures, but it does not say that ending the program later is beyond its authority.

    We celebrate another important victory today, and look forward to the day when a pathway to citizenship is provided for all immigrants to the United States.

    For more information about this decision and the community who has worked so hard to defend the rights of immigrants, please check out organizations such as Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, OneAmerica, and the WA Immigrant Solidarity Network.

    (Photo courtesy Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
  • U.S. Supreme Court Rules Civil Rights Law Protects LGBTQ Workers

    by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
    | Jun 15, 2020

    This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting LGBTQ workers under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

    Join a nationwide community rally at 4pm Pacific tonight (Monday, June 15)

    The National Center for Transgender Equality describes the cases as:

    All three cases decided today by the highest court in the land address discrimination in the workplace. In Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman, was fired when she transitioned on the job. The Court has declared, once and for all, that discrimination against transgender people is unlawful, and that their decision applies across the country. This ruling is truly historic.

    Altitude Express v. Zarda and Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia are both cases where gay employees were fired simply because of their sexual orientation. Today’s decision, in which Justice Gorsuch wrote for the Court that “In Title VII, Congress adopted broad language making it illegal for an employer to rely on an employee’s sex when deciding to fire that employee. We do not hesitate to recognize today a necessary consequence of that legislative choice: An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.”

    This ruling should also provide clear guidance to overrule the Trump administration’s rollback of trans healthcare protections from last week, although further legal challenges will be necessary to end the administration's actions.

    We are thankful that Washington State has had strong anti-discrimination protections since 2006, and we are proud that the rest of the country is making progress on catching up. We still need Congress to catch up with the Supreme Court and the overwhelming majority of Americans and pass full federal non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people in other areas like housing, education, credit, jury service, and public spaces. We have more work to do to cement these gains, and to make sure that these protections make a difference in the lives of all Americans, but it also feels good to celebrate progress in this moment.

    While celebrating this decision, it is almost important to recognize that the Civil Rights Act itself has clearly not ended discrimination towards any group, especially black people. Recognition in the law alone is not enough to safeguard many in our community. The legal rights of all LGBTQ people won’t be secure until we end the systemic ways that racism not only oppresses black people and other people of color—economically, socially, and in the voting booth. We must help people, including within our own community, understand that ending systemic racism is about dismantling systems that also harm all LGBTQ+ people.

    You can read the full decision here.

  • Remembering George Bakan, Seattle Gay News Publisher & LGBTQ Rights Pioneer

    by GSBA Staff
    | Jun 15, 2020
    Losing George Bakan leaves a huge hole in our LGBTQ community. George, Publisher of the Seattle Gay News, was a friend, GSBA Member, and fierce longtime LGBTQ activist.

    20171213-IMG_0070George began his career with SGN in the early 1980’s, when LGBTQ Seattleites depended on each week’s edition of the Seattle Gay News to not only tie them to their community, but to stay informed about the HIV/AIDS epidemic. George printed every scrap of news on research, prevention, and resources to help fight the disease. As the death toll mounted, George filled the pages with the names of our community members who were lost, and published obituaries for free.

    He helped see our community through some of its darkest days, and continued to fight for LGBTQ equality for decades, also leaving his mark on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and marriage equality movements.

    George was a powerhouse. He was never afraid to speak truth to power. He was blunt, and told you how it was - whether you wanted to hear it or not. He was known for his ongoing calls to every LGBTQ nonprofit, and GSBA was right up there receiving our daily one or more George Bakan calls, to hold us accountable, go on about community news, challenge us on what we didn’t do or should do, and other times - just for conversation.

    As we approach our 40th anniversary next year, we find it amazing that we can look back on every year throughout our history as an organization - and George was there. He never missed an event. He loved the GSBA Public Policy Task Force, was proud of our community having an LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, and cared deeply about the GSBA Scholarship & Education Fund. 

    After the last EQUALUX - TASTE of GSBA in November, we picked up the phone to hear George say it was “one of the most powerful events” he’d ever attended, and he went as far as to contact the Mayor’s Office and have the day declared as “EQUALUX Day in Seattle.” Of course, the Mayor’s Office was also familiar with George’s calls and understood that life would be easier if they did what he asked.

    That was George, opinionated, irreverent, knowledgeable, incorrigible, and loved. His activist mold was one of a kind and his legacy within Seattle’s LGBTQ history is indelible. We were so lucky to call him a member and friend.
  • GSBA & CHBA Respond to Police Violence

    by Louise Chernin, President & CEO
    | Jun 08, 2020

    This letter was sent to Mayor Durkan, members of the Seattle City Council, City Attorney Holmes, and Chief Best on June 8, 2020.

    As the small business voice of Capitol Hill and the LGBTQ community, we write in solidarity with other community voices to express our deep concern that the events of the last weeks have put at risk the health and safety of the community.

    The murder of countless black and brown people at the hands of the police must stop. We stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and other community voices here in Seattle on the need to address racism in all its forms.

    As the small business voice of Capitol Hill and the LGBTQ community, we believe Capitol Hill should be a safe place for residents, small business owners, and for individuals to peacefully protest. The management by City Hall and the actions we have observed by the Seattle Police Department have created an environment that is hostile to free speech and the rights of the public to express themselves through peaceful protest.  

    GSBA is Washington's LGBTQ and allied chamber of commerce, founded on Capitol Hill in 1981 and representing 1,400 small businesses in Washington, including hundreds in Seattle. GSBA has a long history of fighting for economic empowerment and social justice. The Capitol Hill Business Alliance is a program of GSBA and is the business voice for the neighborhood. Many of our members have been risking their health and safety to support the protests against police violence because standing with their communities is what they do. In the middle of a pandemic and unprecedented economic crisis, they have seen it as their duty to open their doors and provide food, water, medical supplies, restrooms, and other needed amenities. And in return, many in the community feel betrayed and unsafe due to the reaction by the Seattle Police Department. 

    Watching the epicenter of the confrontation between protesters and police this weekend take place on the rainbow crosswalks in the center of our LGBTQ community's historic neighborhood on the start of Pride was particularly painful. The origins of Pride for the LGBTQ community are rooted in protests against police brutality, whether at the Stonewall Inn, Compton's Cafeteria, or the extortion and harassment of early LGBTQ spaces in Pioneer Square for most of the twentieth century. LGBTQ people of color have been at the center of these movements from the beginning. From our perspective, there is no way to separate the fight for LGBTQ rights from the fights for the rights of black, brown, and indigenous people.

    GSBA has long supported community-based efforts to reform the Seattle Police Department. What the events of the last week have made clear is that the institution needs deep and meaningful changes to its systems, policies, and culture. We ask that you act quickly and decisively to deescalate the tensions on Capitol Hill and across Seattle so that we can again feel safe on Capitol Hill and protesters can exercise their first amendment rights. The City must make every effort necessary to reach consensus with the community to eliminate biased policing, and we ask that you listen closely to the voices of our communities.

    We join with many others who have come before us advocating the following actions as a start to remedy these harms and the significant loss of goodwill and trust between the community, its local leaders, and its police department:

    • Cease all actions against peaceful protesters, including physical attacks, arrests, prosecution, and incarceration.

    • Prohibit the use of any gas, flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets, and other violent methods against protesters.

    • End forcing downtown protests up into Capitol Hill, allow protesters to peaceably walk and gather on streets and sidewalks as they choose, especially during these times when there is minimal obstruction of traffic or other activities.

    • Prohibit any obstruction of badge numbers by officers, for any reason.

    • Have an experienced incident commander who is visible throughout the demonstrations, speaking with and regularly updating community, businesses, the media, and all those watching who are trying to get accurate, timely, and consistent information.

    • Ensure that SPOG and SPMA contracts live up to the promises made to the community that reforms recommended by the Community Police Commission in 2014 and in the 2017 accountability reform law will be fully enacted. 

    • Follow through on all other requirements from the 2017 law that did not need to await contractual changes and on any other recommendations for reform from years of civilian oversight working in collaboration with community that are still not implemented.

    • Begin serious efforts to de-militarize SPD (equipment, training, and behavior) and redirect SPD funding where a law enforcement approach is not serving our communities, reinvesting in other approaches, and in addressing other long-standing disparities in services.

    The damage done to Capitol Hill, its residents, and its small businesses – as well as the loss of trust and mutual respect between police and the communities they serve – will take a lot of work to restore. We are outraged, frustrated, and disappointed, and we need you to hear our voice and those of the protesters. While our expectations are high, we will help hold City Hall and the Seattle Police Department accountable. GSBA will continue to work for equality and the dismantling of structural racism working with community partners to make our City safe and allow our communities to thrive.


    Louise Chernin, President & CEO

  • Thousands Watch Virtual Scholars Celebration

    by Louise Chernin (She/her), GSBA President & CEO
    | Jun 01, 2020

    Thirty years of shaping visionary leaders! One year of planning the celebration and then - poof - with three months to go, everything changed. A Scholars Dinner for 500 had to be reimagined as a never-before done Virtual Scholars Celebration. A sit-down dinner for 500 was transformed into an evening enjoyed by thousands. If you weren’t one of those fortunate viewers, you still have a chance to enjoy an hour of spirit-lifting inspiration by viewing the Virtual Scholars Celebration on YouTube.

    The Scholars Dinner planning committee led by Crystal Wilson and her team - Beth Osborne, Danny Cords, Jacky-Vy Chau, and Lisa Sterritt - let their imagination fly and created an evening of heartfelt stories and exciting moments to introduce this year's cohort: our sixty scholars, twenty-five returning scholars and thirty-five new scholars - the largest cohort yet. Scholar alum Ernesto Morfin-Montes de Oca knocked it out of the park as our emcee. The evening started off with Shinji Wakabayashi and Heather Wiedenhoff, GSBA’s first two scholars from 1991; who were followed by Scholars Nate Jo, Amanda Schendzielos, Richard Parra, Bryan Rincon Ochoa and Mei’lani Eyre. Listening to these resilient, courageous and smart students, renewed our hope, a scarce commodity in 2020.

    Special thanks to Mayor Jenny Durkan, US Senator Patty Murray, and Washington State Supreme Court Justice Helen Whitener for congratulating our students. We also want to give a shout out to our dinner sponsors, who without hesitation changed their sponsorships into donations to the fund. Thank you: T-Mobile, Premera Blue Cross, Alaska Airlines, Amazon, Carter Subaru, Kaiser Permanente, Liberty Mutual, PwC, Safeco, and UW Medicine.

    Now, more important than ever, we need people willing to step up and lead, so huge thanks is owed to our Board Chair Stephanie Dallas, Scholarship Chair Carrie Carson, and the entire Board for being those leaders. Moving an emotional evening of hugs and cheers into a virtual event is not easy, but with the vision and leadership of our Deputy Director Mark Rosén, Sr. Development Officer Jeff Boyer, Scholarship Manager Taylor Briggs, and the creative genius of our Production Manager Carlos Chavez, a magical evening was created. If you hadn’t grabbed your tissues yet, you definitely needed them when scholar Inéz Marti sang P!nk's “What About Us” as the images of smiles and messages from our cohort flashed across the screen.

    Again, it is not too late to watch if you missed the event (or to watch again) to take part in the magic. Thank you to all of you who gave during the Celebration. If you missed this opportunity, please join the GSBA family of donors. Every donation ensures our LGBTQ and allied students are able to go to college. Education is the greatest equalizer there is, and investing in future diverse leaders, is a wise investment.

    For a better future,

    Louise Chernin (She/her)
    GSBA President & CEO
  • We Stand in Solidarity for Black Lives & Against Racial Injustice

    by Louise Chernin, GSBA President & CEO
    | May 28, 2020

    It might be a beautiful sunny day, but there is a very dark cloud hanging over our country. Of course, there is the cloud of COVID-19, but we believe that crisis will go away with treatment and a vaccine.

    Today, my heart goes out to the family of George Floyd, another black family burying a loved one who was senselessly murdered by those sworn to protect us. This year alone, we already grieve the senseless killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and too many black and brown Americans whose lives have been cut short because of racist violence.

    The outrage and anger intermingling with our grief can be paralyzing as we continue to dismantle, shatter, and wipe out ongoing individual, personal, structural, and institutional racism that permeates every aspect of our country.
    As we all try and cope with the sick feeling and outrage I know you share with me, let’s find concrete ways to address this treacherous fear and hatred within our country. It must be battled on every front, every day, in every way.

    I know that the LGBTQ community continues to suffer discrimination and violence, but we have plenty of work to do even within our our community, whether in our organizations, our community spaces, or ourselves. We talk about allyship and how important it is to work for human rights for all, but it is essential that we understand true allyship must be loud and visible, even when it is uncomfortable. And above all else, it must be earned.
    We can do this, but it must be a priority. No one is better at movement growing than the LGBTQ community. Racism is deadly, discrimination crushes our souls, and at this very moment it is being fed by those in power. We must find ways to stop its growing boldness.

    This includes accountable police forces which must continue to address acts of violence against the black community, all communities of color, and transgender and gender-diverse people. This includes intentional decisions to change economic systems that consistently oppress large segments of our populations. This includes recognizing that our desire to be comfortable is not greater than someone else's right to live.

    Wishing you courage and safety,

    Louise Chernin (She/her)
    GSBA President & CEO
  • Meet First-Year Scholar Dawson Dang

    by GSBA Staff
    | May 15, 2020

    Dawson Dang_1First year GSBA Scholar, Dawson Dang grew up in the small town of Longview, Washington. He is the first in his family to pursue a higher education and is now going to school at the University of Washington in Seattle pursuing a degree in Nursing with a minor in Nutritional Sciences.

    We recently caught up with Dawson and he shared,

    “What sparked my interest in pursuing a nursing/ healthcare degree was when I came across Growing Generations, a surrogacy and egg donation agency. I was researching for a paper on same-sex adoption when I found out about Growing Generations and its president Erica Horton, who is also a board member for the Family Equality Council. When I found out about the work they do for the LGBTQ+ community and how they help them start families I knew this is what I was meant to do. I’ve always strongly valued family so to help others through the means of healthcare to start a family of their own was something that would mean a lot to me.”

    Especially in the midst of a global pandemic, we are reminded just how important it is to have strong leadership and representation of marginalized communities in healthcare. For Dawson, the need for culturally competent and compassionate healthcare is personal for many reasons:

    “Being both a member of the LGBTQ+ community as well as a Vietnamese-American during a time of global pandemic can be quite frightening especially in today's political climate. Ever since discovering myself and my own sexuality, I’ve always realized the importance of having LGBTQ+ community members in healthcare. I think now more than ever it is important to have LGBTQ+ as well as Asian representation in health because of the blatant discrimination this virus has brought on to both communities.”

    Join us for the Virtual Scholars Celebration on Friday, May 27, from 6:00 - 7:00 PM to meet Dawson and the 59 other incredible GSBA Scholars who are ready to change the world!

  • Scholar Stories: Meet Three-Year Scholar Elmer Coria

    by GSBA Staff
    | May 01, 2020

    P1188151In this time of economic uncertainty, the GSBA Scholarship Fund is redoubling our efforts to stay connected with scholars, learn more about how they are doing, and find new and creative ways to support them. In 2016, the GSBA Scholarship Fund formally adopted a new policy, which we called the GSBA Guarantee. This Guarantee ensures that every scholar who is making steady progress toward degree completion is eligible for up to four years of undergraduate scholarship funding. As an added benefit, this Guarantee has allowed GSBA to foster and maintain deeper relationships with each of our scholars over the course of multiple years.

    One such multi-year scholar who we have had the pleasure of supporting is Elmer Coria. Elmer came of age in Mexico City and presently resides in Tacoma, Washington, where he attends Pacific Lutheran University, pursuing undergraduate degrees in Business Administration and Hispanic Studies. He yearns to address LGBTQ issues of immigration, social justice, and discrimination by creating optimized support networks and spheres of influence. Elmer’s longstanding goal is to elevate the voice of LGBTQ immigrant and refugee communities in regional chambers of commerce via economic, legislative, and community-based initiatives.

    For the past three years, we have come to know Elmer as a global-minded, infinite learner who firmly believes in building communities and economies through integrity, teamwork, and global vision. Elmer will be graduating from Pacific Lutheran University in May and is currently studying to take his CPA exams before starting full-time employment with PwC in the fall. We could not be more proud of Elmer and are so excited to continue witnessing all of the good that he brings to the world. Click here to watch Elmer speak on how the GSBA Scholarship Fund has impacted his life.

    GSBA will be sharing more Scholar Stories in the coming months so stay tuned! And don’t forget to join us on Wednesday, May 27th at 6 PM for our Virtual Scholars Celebration to honor our graduates, celebrate our returning scholars, and welcome our 35 newly selected scholars.

  • GSBA Continues to Advocate for Businesses During Pandemic

    by Louise Chernin (She/her), GSBA President & CEO
    | Apr 27, 2020

    Although many of us are weary of life under COVID-19, Governor Inslee has announced some movement to allow the opening up of some sectors of the economy, starting with low risk construction. Other industries that the Governor is looking to open up will be elective surgeries and outdoor recreation. But, the main question everyone wants answers to “when will we return to normal?”

    Given these unknowns, the Governor is not able to provide direct answers. As we keep repeating, it will be a “turn of the dial and not a switch.” Even as industries open, the openings will be gradual - and we need to be prepared for setbacks. GSBA will continue to monitor the lifting of industry restrictions, and keep you posted. As business owners, you do need to start thinking of how you will reopen in stages, in terms of staggering staff hours; making accommodations for high risk employees; and ensuring your workplace will able to be compliant around workplace safety such as social distancing and hygiene maintenance; and customer/visitor expectations and monitoring. 
    Although mostly consumed by COVID-19, there are other workplace issues that GSBA is actively engaged. I am referring to the recent payroll tax legislation introduced by Councilmembers Sawant and Morales. Given that the State of Washington is soon to see an unemployment rate of one million, I was aghast that our City Council was considering a tax against payroll.

    In response, GSBA has written councilmembers and the Mayor, testified before the City Council’s Budget Committee; had an opinion piece published in the Puget Sound Business Journal co-authored by me and Taylor Hoang, Executive Director of the Ethnic Business Coalition, and are actively engaged with the No Payroll Tax, Recovery First committee. GSBA understands that there is a need for more revenue in Seattle and Washington State, but do not believe taxing payroll is the way to go. Perhaps, the time is now to look at a more progressive tax at the state level.
    It is a busy time for GSBA as we work on behalf of you, our 1,400 members, each who are facing the gravest challenges of your professional lives. Our Membership Team is available to provide you with technical support on applying for SBA loans and grants. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if there is information or support we can provide you.

    Stay safe,

    Louise Chernin (She/her)
    GSBA President & CEO
  • GSBA Endorses Federal Paycheck Guarantee Act

    by Matt Landers, Public Policy & Government Relations Director
    | Apr 27, 2020
    The GSBA Board of Directors has endorsed the Paycheck Guarantee Act, proposed by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-7).

    "A federal paycheck guarantee would stanch more layoffs and unemployment, and quickly and reliably deliver relief to workers," says Representative Jayapal. "Workers would not be forced to apply for unemployment insurance, overwhelm that system and then have to once again find a job. Businesses of all sizes would be able to keep workers on payroll and benefits—and be able to quickly re-open—partially or fully—without having to rehire and retrain their workforce.”

    GSBA thanks the Congresswoman and her office for the extensive outreach to small businesses, including GSBA members, on how to best structure this act. In particular, she heard the many frustrations around accessing supports from the CARES Act and has designed the Paycheck Guarantee Act to have as few barriers as possible so that relief can get in people's hands as fast and as easily as possible.

    The Paycheck Guarantee Act would:
    1. Cover 100% of wages for workers earning up to $100,000, ensuring that employers are able to keep workers paid and out of unemployment lines
    2. Keep workers enrolled in employer-sponsored benefits, including health care
    3. Encourage employers to re-hire recently laid-off staff or furloughed workers by covering payroll retroactively to the start of the crisis
    4. Cover essential business expenses like rent to ensure that businesses don't shutter completely and can re-open when the pandemic ends
    5. Get support to employers and workers as quickly as possible, using existing payroll tax infrastructure to facilitate delivery of payments.
    6. Keep workers attached to the labor market and businesses ready to open, speeding up the economic recovery.

  • Walking the Talk: Regional Companies Show Up for LGBTQ Students

    by GSBA Staff
    | Apr 24, 2020
    When the Scholarship Fund was founded 30 years ago, it was the generosity of individual donors that provided the funds to support our scholars. Individual donors continue to contribute the majority of the funds raised each year and every donation helps from our Yellow Brick Road donors, who give what they can monthly, to our Presidents Circle donors who have made philanthropy a significant part of their life mission. Added to that, is the support we receive from our corporate partners.

    2018 Scholars Dinner - Photo Credit - Mary Grace McKernan (73)In our region, we are blessed with companies that understand the importance of giving back, that embrace diversity and inclusion, and see the impact their donations can make for the next generation. These are companies who don’t just write a check with a rainbow stamp. They show up as volunteers, they hold trainings for our scholars, they provide internships and mentoring, and they truly walk the talk. This is true for the Sounders FC, Holland America Lines, Microsoft, PwC, and so many more. The individuals working for these companies give from their own pockets, they dedicate their time to interview and help select the next scholar cohort, and they are some of the best ambassadors for the Fund around.

    With the cancellation of our 30th Anniversary Scholars Dinner, every one of the93089110_10157891229278726_3725045051584151552_n corporate sponsors quickly switched their sponsorship to a direct donation to the Fund, thereby ensuring that we are able to continue to support our scholars. Some have gone even further by increasing their support for students facing extraordinary burdens with the loss of jobs and vital income. Goose Ridge Cellars was excited to support the Dinner for the second year in a row with their amazing wines; but now will be donating a portion of the proceeds from the sales of their Cascadian Outfitters Rosé Bubbles, featuring a rainbow colored Sasquatch on the can, to the Scholarship Fund.

    GSBA Diamond Sponsor, Wells Fargo, created a scholarship five years ago, and continues to be one of the Scholarship Funds biggest supporters. This year, the Wells Fargo Scholarship is being awarded to Marlon Do Couto, a multi-year GSBA Scholar who is one of two recipients of a graduate level scholarship. Marlon has been a volunteer at numerous events for GSBA and last year, while he took a gap year between undergrad and grad school, Marlon was one of many past GSBA scholars who interviewed and help choose the newest cohort.

    Marlon Do CoutoOriginally from Brazil, Marlon Do Couto has lived in Seattle for seven years. He has a B.A. in Finance from Seattle University and will pursue a Master of Science in Business Analytics at Duke University in North Carolina. Marlon wants to use data analytics to increase diversity within companies and to advocate for social and environmental responsibility. He also wants to use his background in finance and analytics to help LGBTQ immigrants of color who want to launch businesses. By helping these entrepreneurs to access resources and capital, Marlon hopes they will be able to establish and grow their companies, creating thriving and diverse business communities across the country.

    At EQUALUX 2019, the largest donation received was from Symetra. With a focus on students from the most underserved communities. the Symetra Empowers Scholarship will fund three scholars each year for the next five years. It is the largest corporate grant that Symetra has awarded and the largest corporate gift to the Scholarship Fund in our history.

    In a time of great economic uncertainty, it takes the entire community to sustain the work of investing in the next generation of leaders. The need for compassionate, innovative and dedicated leaders has never been more evident than it is now. We thank every single one of our donors and our corporate partners for making the difference!

    We hope that you will join us at the Virtual Scholars Celebration on May 27 from 6:00-7:00 PM to meet all of the named scholars and the entire 60-student cohort. The 30th Anniversary Scholars Dinner may be cancelled, but the celebration goes on.