US Department of Labor Kicks Off "Worker Voice Regional Summits" in Minneapolis


Danny Schwartzman, owner of Common Roots Café in Minneapolis, and the Main Street Alliance of Minnesota joined a roundtable discussion this week hosted by the US Department of Labor ahead of a kickoff event launching a nationwide series of regional “Worker Voice Summits.”

Minneapolis hosted the first in the series of summits and local and national level elected officials attended the event and the preceding roundtable discussion.

Congressman Keith Ellison, Former House Speaker Paul Thissen, Senate President Sandy Pappas, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman joined US Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and other officials and advocates to discuss paid sick days and paid family leave. 

Secretary Perez and Congressman Ellison praised the work of socially conscious business owners in Minneapolis and across the country. Their work has helped raise standards for workers by creating and supporting new workplace regulations, like paid sick days and paid family leave. 

Danny spoke about the importance of a government that works alongside the business community in route to creating and supporting an environment in which both workers and business owners thrive. 

Click here to learn more about the impact of paid sick days on a businesses bottom line

To keep the conversation going hop on Twitter and use #StartTheConvo and #WorkerVoice

Paid Sick Days Bill Passes Vermont Senate


Matt Birong, owner of 3 Squares Cafe in Vergennes testifies before committee in support of H.187, the Healthy Workplaces bill

On Wednesday, February 3, The Vermont State Senate gave final approval to the Healthy Workplaces bill (H.187) with a strong bi-partisan vote of 21-8.

The approval came after several amendments were made by the Senate Committee on Economic Development that had jurisdiction of the bill and five successful floor amendments that received signals of support from the Economic Development Committee. Key amendments included a one-year grace period for new businesses, an exclusion for part-time workers that work fewer than 18 hours per week, and one year delayed implementation for businesses that employ five or fewer employees working 30 hours or more per week. The bill also excludes any persons under the age of 18.

Other floor amendments not supported by the committee were defeated, including an attempt to exempt businesses with five and fewer employees that was defeated by a single vote –providing universal adoption of the law across businesses of all sizes.

“We appreciate all the work that the Senate did on this bill – and feel that a reasonable compromise has been struck,” says Lindsay DesLauriers, State Director of the Main Street Alliance of Vermont. “We were particularly pleased that the Senate did not adopt an exclusion by business size as we hear again and again from business owners around the state that a standard of earned leave should apply to all businesses equally. Paid leave should be a workplace standard like the minimum wage and this bill accomplishes that.”

“This bill represents years of work and compromise to achieve a balanced bill. I’m pleased with the result and proud of the work that so many business owners on our coalitions did to ensure such a positive outcome,” says Main Street Alliance of Vermont Board chair and COO at White + Burke Real Estate Investment Advisors, Stephanie Hainley.

"I think this bill is one of the best examples I've seen of really working hard to figure out how to find the right balance for employers and employees,” says Matt Birong, owner of 3 Squares Café in Vergennes. “I applaud all the work that has gone into this."

Stephanie and Matt represented over 250 Vermont businesses that are part of the Main Street Alliance of Vermont’s Coalition in Support of Earned Leave and were joined by more than a dozen fellow member businesses in testifying in support of the bill in Montpelier in the weeks leading up to the Senate vote.

The proposed carve out for business with under 5 employees failed by a narrow vote and it will be reconsidered next week. If the votes hold the amended bill will then go back to the House for review. The original bill passed the House last year with a vote of 72-63, and house members will now have the opportunity to approve the changes, recommend further amendments, or ask for a Committee of Conference. Their decision is expected in the coming weeks.

Main Street Alliance of Oregon members take part in the launch of A Better Oregon campaign


This past Saturday the Main Street Alliance of Oregon took part in the launch of A Better Oregon winter campaign. The campaign is moving a tax measure forward that would tax Oregon's largest corporations, those grossing over $25 million annually. The added tax revenue created would provide additional funding for the state's K-12 education system, services provided for seniors, and healthcare. 

Over 220 people were in attendance for the launch including; small business owners, educators, children, and concerned citizens. One of the small business owners in attendance, Carmen Ripley Wilson, owner of Beanstalk Children's Resale, provided testimony in support of the proposal. 

"I care about my community and I want to make sure it's healthy, but as a small business owner, there's only so much I can do on my own," said Carmen. "Crowded classrooms, unaffordable healthcare, seniors retiring into poverty...everyone can agree that these things need to change. With A Better Oregon, we have the opportunity to do just that. We can make the kinds of investments that will allow our communities to thrive."

The coalition hopes that their proposal will become a ballot measure in 2016 and have enjoyed broad support from legislators, advocacy groups, and faith-based organizations. The Main Street Alliance of Oregon currently has 190 signatures from small business owners across the state in support of the proposal and are well on their way to their goal of 300 small business owners signed on in support. 

Congressmen Ellison and Scott Join Minneapolis Businesses to Discuss "High Road" Business Practices That Benefit Their Bottom Line


Congressmen Keith Ellison and Bobby Scott joined small business owners on Tuesday at a “High Roads” business lunch at Gandhi Mahal Restaurant in Minneapolis to discuss the economic and community benefits of taking the "high road" approach to doing business.

The business owners in attendance discussed how they live their values in their business practices, and how higher wages and benefits can be profit enhancers, rather than obstacles to profit.

“We focus on sustainability in every sense of the word, including how to treat and work with our employees. We guarantee our employees $15.00/hr to make sure that we have family-supporting wages” said Andy Pappacosta, events manager at Gandhi Mahal. “When our employees have a short term illness, they are paid for those shifts so that they don’t worry about making rent or paying the bills. We feel this is not only fair treatment of our employees, but a sustainable approach that we’ve found has significant benefits, like a very low turnover of staff, which in turn saves us money and is good for our bottom line.”

Andy and the staff at Gandhi Mahal were joined by Minneapolis business owners; Tracy Singleton, of Birchwood Café, Jason Rathe, of Field Outdoor Spaces, Dean Schlaak, of Wilde Roast Café, Lonnie McQuirter, of Lyn 36 Service Center, and Julie Kearns, of Junket: Tossed and Found.

The group discussed the somewhat controversial “working families agenda” proposed last spring in the City of Minneapolis aimed at alleviating racial and economic job disparities and creating a better quality of life for residents. The businesses in attendance and many others across the city support a common sense approach to a city-wide ordinance for earned sick and safe time in Minneapolis.

“Having an employee-centric environment has always been at the core of our values. We believe that we do business in order to build the company we want to be a part of” said Jason Rathe, owner of Field Outdoor Spaces. “For example, we added paid time off for hourly employees at the beginning of 2015.”

Rathe was one of the several businesses to discuss scheduling with his employees and alter current practices. “We used to encourage our crews to finish up projects when they could so that they could start a new project the next day. After reflecting on the goals of the Minneapolis Working Family Agenda, we realized that this unknown end to the day was putting stress on employee's lives and were not really gaining anything from it. The job would still be there in the morning. So we changed our workday- now we require that crews return by our designated end time, 6:00 pm.”

“The current debate over sick time is still mired in myths and fear about the costs of earned sick days, which creates a highly unproductive debate. In reality, good wages and benefits and profits are not mutually exclusive, and many businesses know this and operate accordingly,” said Julie Kearns, owner of Junket, Tossed & Found.

In addition to convening members and legislators to discuss the policy proposal the Main Street Alliance of Minnesota recently released a new report examining the impact of earned sick day ordinances across the country titled The Bottom Line on Earned Sick Time: A Cost / Benefit Analysis of Earned Sick Days on the Economy.

The Minneapolis proposal for earned sick and safe time is currently being considered and studied by the 19-member Workplace Partnership Group organized by the city.

The Main Street Alliance of Minnesota Releases Paid Sick Days Report, Holds Press Call


New report examines impact of Earned Sick & Safe ordinances nationwide

On Tuesday, January 12th, The Main Street Alliance of Minnesota hosted a conference call with members of the media to discuss a new report examining the economic impact of earned sick day policies in cities nationwide.

Minneapolis businesses joined business owners in Jersey City, NJ and Portland, OR, who shared their experiences implementing sick days, and discussed the impact of local ordinances on the economy.

The report uses data from a recent analysis from the National Partnership for Women and Families analyzing the costs and benefits of earned sick day ordinances to businesses and economy in five cities and one state.

Minneapolis small business owners discussed their perspectives about the proposal for earned sick and safe time currently being considered and studied by 19 member Workplace Partnership Group organized by the city.

Speakers on the call included: 


A copy of the report can be viewed and downloaded here

Iowa Members Meet With US Rep. David Young to Discuss Wages and Taxes

20160104_133331.jpgMain Street Alliance of Iowa members and staff with Rep. David Young (R) 

Earlier this week members of the Main Street Alliance of Iowa met with Congressman David Young to discuss minimum wage, tax reform, equal pay for equal work, and the public policy needs of Iowa’s small business community. 

Mike Draper, owner of RAYGUN, a Des Moines-based printing, design, and clothing company presented his case for raising the minimum wage. From his perspective, small business owners are put at a competitive disadvantage when they commit to providing fair compensation to their employees while large corporations pay the lowest wages allowed by law. Mike asked the Representative to consider the fact that business owners like him are essentially subsidizing the wages of large corporations to who force their employees onto tax-payer funded public assistance programs. Representative Young told members that he sees movement in Congress towards passing a minimum wage increase, but he voiced his concerns over finding a federal wage that works for both urban and rural communities.

Chris Petersen, a family farmer, presented Rep. Young with a copy of the Main Street Alliance annual report, Voices of Main Street, highlighting the need for higher wages and passage of the FAMILY Act, providing workers with paid family leave. Rep. Young reviewed the findings and took notice of the statistics surrounding corporate taxes and the overwhelming majority of small business owners that believe large corporations are paying less than their fair share. 

Congressman Young discussed the off-shoring of jobs and revenues and the practice or corporate inversions. He called these practices both “unpatriotic” and “bad for the economy.” When asked for his thoughts on how to end these tax avoidance and job-killing measures he said that rather than eliminating the practices by law, the US should consider lowering its corporate tax rate. A measure that Main Street members and the Representative could not come to an agreement on. 

All those in attendance left with a better understanding of where each other stood on the issues and members in Iowa made certain the Congressman heard the voices of local small business owners. They left behind materials and the annual MSA report findings for him to reference when making future decisions regarding his position on the pressing issues facing the economy in Iowa, and nationally. 

SHOP: Can it Boost Health Coverage for Small Business Employees?

A new report shows that small business owners care about the health insurance coverage they offer their employees, yet the Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP) remains an untapped resource with the potential to help employers find affordable plans. A new report shows that small business owners care about the health insurance coverage they offer their employees, yet the Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP) remains an untapped resource with the potential to help employers find affordable plans. 

Originally posted by Katherine Hempstead of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

In 1942, Ken Wilson’s grandfather started Bonnie Brae Conoco, a full-service gas station and neighborhood garage in Denver. Today, Ken is the third generation to manage the business. They’ve offered their employees health insurance since 1970, paying 100 percent of the costs for those who work full-time. Although it’s their largest expense, the Wilsons believe offering coverage is essential. They want to take care of their employees and attract and retain the best people.  

Small businesses, like all businesses, have struggled to keep up with the rising cost of health insurance. But unlike larger companies that can leverage their purchasing power to negotiate lower premiums and more comprehensive benefits, small businesses often have a choice of costlier plans with skimpier benefits. A recent study found small firms are far less likely than larger firms to offer health coverage. In 2012 and 2013, the percentage of small employers offering health insurance was 35 percent, while the percentage of large employers offering insurance was 95.8 percent.  

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has several implications for small businesses. Under the ACA, small business health plans are subject to the marketplace regulations similar to those in the individual market. Depending on the state in which the business is located and the characteristics of the work force, these changes could make premiums change a lot or a little. Many small businesses are still offering pre-ACA plans, and many of them will need to transition to ACA-compliant coverage in 2017.

One new opportunity is the Small Business Health Options Program or SHOP, which is an online marketplace where small business owners with 50 or fewer full-time employees can purchase health insurance for their workers. Features of SHOP attempt to provide flexibility for both employers and employees. Business owners can set their contribution and their employees can choose the plan and benefits they want. Small business owners with 25 or fewer full-time employees can also qualify for a tax credit to put toward the cost of coverage.

SHOP isn’t actually a new idea. Before the ACA, states like Utah had created a way for small business owners to control health insurance costs while giving their employees a choice in plans. Models like Utah’s Avenue H informed the creation of SHOP and today 17 states and the District of Columbia have developed a SHOP marketplace, while operates SHOP in the other 33 states.

Despite broad participation, enrollment in SHOP has been slow. As of May 2015, only about 10,500 small businesses participated in SHOP, providing coverage to about 85,000 individuals.

Some have argued that delayed implementation and limited promotion explain much of SHOP’s slow start. But other questions remain: Does the tax credit sufficiently incentivize small businesses to provide
coverage? Is there enough competition among plans to keep costs affordable? Is there demand among employees for employers to take action? RWJF recently completed a study with small business owners to better understand their views about health insurance in general and SHOP in particular.

There were some important findings:  

  1. Employers value coverage for themselves and their workers. Our study also showed that 8 in 10 employers were willing to help their uninsured employees find coverage, and of this group, 96 percent would encourage uninsured employees to go to or their state marketplace to find coverage.
  2. When employers learned more about SHOP, their reaction was favorable. Many employers were not very aware of SHOP, but after learning more, 82 percent said they would look into the marketplace for insurance.

This study tells us there is a clear appetite to learn more about SHOP and to connect employees with coverage. Small business owners care about coverage, and the more they learn about SHOP’s features, the more they seem to like it. Next year will be a critical one for the small group market, as many small businesses will transition out of pre-ACA health insurance plans. Many of these employers could potentially benefit from SHOP, but there are competing non-ACA compliant opportunities such as self-insurance or group plans through employer associations. Time will tell whether SHOP will become a sustainable model for providing affordable coverage options to small employers and their employees.

Katherine Hempstead, PhD, is a Director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with a focus on expanding health insurance coverage and price transparency.

Civil Society Assails Multinational Tax Giveaway

“Tax Extenders” Deal Could Permanently Enshrine Outrageous Tax Dodging Loophole in Tax Code, Extend Another One for Five Years

Civil society groups assailed a backroom congressional tax deal released early this morning as an egregious giveaway to multinational tax dodgers at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.  The so-called “tax extenders” deal could permanently enshrine in the tax code an offshore loophole known as the “Active Financing Exception”, which is abused by multinational companies to artificially shift profits overseas and dodge taxes at the expense of the American public.  The deal also extends for five years another offshore loophole, known as the “CFC Look-Through Rule”, which also allows corporations to use accounting tricks to avoid paying taxes.

While the legislation, negotiated in tandem with the omnibus spending bill, is likely to pass through Congress before the holidays, the FACT (Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency) Coalition urges lawmakers to vehemently oppose the two international tax measures, which, because they leave the door open for tax avoidance, will collectively cost taxpayers an estimated $100 billion over a decade. 

"This bill takes a step in the wrong direction by rewarding corporations who shift jobs offshore," said Amanda Ballantyne, national director for the Main Street Alliance."Small businesses across the country are proud to pay taxes and invest in their communities; they only ask that corporations pay their fair share as well." 

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Tens of Thousands Urge Congress to Reject Any Extension of Egregious Tax Loopholes

 extenderspiechart_update.jpgHouse Lawmakers to Vote this Week on Temporary Renewal of “Tax Extenders” Package – including Two Outrageous Offshore Tax Loopholes Costing Taxpayers $10 Billion Annually

Members of Congress should reject two egregious international tax loopholes in pending legislation, which combined would cost American taxpayers $10 billion per year, the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition, its members, and tens of thousands of Americans said today.

U.S. House lawmakers are likely to vote this week on a proposal to temporarily renew a package of expired tax cuts for two years, known as the “tax extenders.” Among the largest of those provisions are two offshore tax loopholes—namely the “CFC Look-Through Rule” and the “Active Financing Exception”—which reward multinational corporations for artificially shifting profits overseas to dodge taxes at the expense of the American public.

“It’s high time Congress takes a stand against multinational corporations that shift their profits offshore to avoid paying their fair share of taxes,” said Clark Gascoigne, acting director of the FACT Coalition, which unites over 100 leading small business and faith-based, human rights, investor, anti-corruption, public-interest, government watchdog, labor and global development organizations from across the idealogical spectrum. “When Congress incentivizes multinational corporations to continue avoiding paying taxes by manipulating their tax bills, small businesses and average American taxpayers have to pick up the tab in the form of cuts to public programs, higher taxes and bigger government deficits.”

Strong Opposition to Permanent Extension

While a temporary extension is on the docket for Thursday, many members of Congress are continuing to push for a larger tax deal that would enshrine these two offshore loopholes permanently in the tax code at a staggering cost of $100 billion over ten years.

“Naturally, we urge all members of Congress to support the interests of the American people, oppose the loopholes that reward offshore tax haven abuse, and reject any attempt to reopen or cement them permanently into our already loophole-ridden tax code,” added Gascoigne.

Over 89,000 Americans Call on Congress to Reject Offshore Provisions

Opposition to these offshore loopholes was echoed by tens of thousands of Americans across the country who wrote more than 89,000 letters to their members of Congress this week urging them to oppose any effort to either extend or make permanent the CFC Look-Through Rule and Active Financing Exception.

“Congress needs to drop corporate tax loopholes from their holiday shopping list,” said Nathan Proctor, national campaign director with Fair Share, a FACT Coalition member who helped mobilize citizens on this issue. “Congress should end each and every loophole that allows a set of larger companies to play a rigged game. They have a chance right now to leave these two offshore loopholes behind, and make sure everyone plays by the same rules.”

“When corporations dodge their taxes, the public ends up paying,” said Ana Owens, tax and budget advocate with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), another FACT Coalition member. “The American multinationals that take advantage of tax havens use our roads, benefit from our education system and large consumer market, and enjoy the security we have here, but are ultimately taking a free ride at the expense of other taxpayers. American citizens understand this; that’s why tens of thousands of them are standing up and saying ‘enough is enough.’”

Bigger Deal to Phase Out Offshore Loopholes?

While negotiations in Congress continue to work toward a bigger tax deal, it appears that some people on Capitol Hill may be noticing the outcry from the American public. Media reports suggest that some policymakers now may be considering phasing out these two offshore loopholes over five years, instead of making them permanent. While FACT, its members, and taxpayers certainly would prefer this approach over any permanent extension, the cost of such a move still could be close to $50 billion over five years for just the offshore provisions—encouraging more companies to shift their profits offshore.

“We are happy to see that negotiators are considering phasing out these two egregious tax giveaways to multinationals, but an even better approach would be to drop them from any package completely,” said Susan Harley, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, another member of the FACT Coalition that engaged citizen activists to oppose the loopholes. “America is being bled of billions in revenue every year because multinational corporations are gaming tax giveaways. These loopholes should be closed once and for all; otherwise the U.S. is leaving the door wide open to tax avoidance by companies that can and should be paying their fair share.”

“Our economic progress is undermined when the tax code rewards financial manipulation rather than innovation and productive investment,” said David Levine, CEO and co-founder of the American Sustainable Business Council. “National polling of small business owners found that 91 percent think U.S. multinational corporations’ use of accounting loopholes to shift profits to offshore subsidiaries to avoid taxes is a problem.”

kelly.jpg“Every time a big corporation uses accounting schemes to avoid paying its full measure of taxes—the typical use of tax havens—small businesses and working families pay the price, either in higher taxes or deteriorating public services,” said Kelly Conklin, executive committee member of Main Street Alliance and co-owner of Foley-Waite LLC, of Kenilworth, New Jersey.


“Loopholes shouldn’t be the status quo. We must ensure that our tax system is fair, transparent and benefits all of us,” said Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, a religious development coalition.

Shop Your Values Spotlight: Minuteman Press


Originally from Tacoma Washington, Frank Brown graduated with a BS in Business and Accounting from Central Washington University and an MBA from Seattle University. For nearly 30 years, Frank worked in large printing companies who often didn't treat their workers fairly, and countered his values of racial, social, and economic justice. The last straw was seeing new male hires to a company make the same salary as a female department head.Frank_Brown2.jpg

In May 2015, Frank started MinuteMan Press in the uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. He lives his values in his business, with the belief that employees are significant stakeholders and are key to a successful bottom line. He set out to create good jobs with living wages and benefits and believes in second chances during the hiring process. Frank now employs a staff of nine at the only minority-owned Union Shop in the State of Minnesota.

Frank's activism started in 2009 with TakeAction Minnesota’s Renew campaign. He became a founding member of the Justice for All Program at TakeAction Minnesota, and led the campaign to Ban the Box, leading a 300 person rally in downtown Minneapolis. Frank now serves as Chair of the Pac Board at TakeAction Minnesota and a leader in the Main Street Alliance of Minnesota.

Frank shares our values on equal pay for equal work, providing living wage jobs, giving a fair chance to all job applicants and many others. Support businesses like Minuteman Press that share your values this holiday season and throughout the year. #ShopYourValues.

Minuteman Press

2101 Hennepin Avenue, Suite 112
Minneapolis, MN 55405


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