House approves winery workforce development bill sponsored by Rep. Kelly Chambers

A bill sponsored by Rep. Kelly Chambers seeking to grow the workforce in the wine industry has been approved by the Washington State House of Representatives.

Currently, individuals under the age of 21 are prohibited from working full-time at Washington state wineries unless enrolled in a post-secondary school program. If still under the age of 21 upon graduating, state law dictates they are not allowed to continue engaging in wine production-related work.

Under Chambers’ House Bill 1289, wineries would be permitted to allow 18- to 20-year-old employees to work in the manufacturing and production side of the business so long as an adult age 21 or older was on duty supervising. The bill would not allow employees under the age of 21 to sell, serve or consume alcohol.

Chambers, R-Puyallup, who serves as the ranking Republican on the House College and Workforce Development Committee, says House Bill 1289 offers a common-sense fix to existing law that would generate interest in viticulture programs at Washington State University and other post-secondary institutions, while also opening up career pathways for 18- to 20-year-olds across the state.

“Much of the legislation we pass in Olympia involves making small changes to existing law that can have a big impact on people’s lives. This bill is one of those examples,” said Chambers. “If House Bill 1289 becomes law, we will be able to strengthen important university programs and help connect prospective employees with companies in an industry that plays a critical role in our state’s economy. I’m encouraged this bill received such overwhelming support in the House and look forward to advocating for its passage in the Senate.”

Facts about Washington’s wine industry (source):

  • Number of wineries: 1,000+
  • Number of wine grape growers: 400+
  • Wine grape acreage: 60,000+ acres
  • Wine production: Approx. 17.7 million cases
  • Varieties produced: 70+
  • Total economic impact: $8.4 billion

Chambers’ bill, which was approved 91-6, now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

The 2021 remote legislative session is scheduled to adjourn April 25.


Washington State House Republican Communications