Minnesota members near the finish line in the campaign for Earned Sick and Safe Time in Minneapolis

Minneapolis leaders make final push for Earned Sick and Safe Time ahead of Friday’s Council vote

In the final weeks leading up to the vote on the Earned Sick and Safe Time Policy in Minneapolis, Minnesota business owners committed to creating a healthier, more equitable city have been tearing apart opposition claims threatening a mass exodus of small businesses from Minneapolis. They have been pushing back on attempts to poke holes in the ordinance language, such as exempting youth workers and employees of small businesses.

Main Street Alliance members didn’t just support the language; they helped create it. Small businesses owners, including Minnesota members Danny Schwartzman, owner of Common Roots Cafe and Abdirahman Kahin, owner of Afro Deli. The two served on the task force that held public hearings and worked for months to craft a common sense, practical policy that was a compromise between business owners and employees.

After the recommendations came out, small businesses from across Minneapolis, many of whom own restaurants, have met with Councilmembers, attended public hearings, and taken to social media in support of the policy. They have spoken at and hosted press conferences to support the ordinance language, which they believe will directly address Minneapolis’ racial disparities.

Tom DeGree and Dean Schlaak, owners of Wilde Café and Spirits, implemented sick days in advance of the ordinance and explained in an op-ed in MinnPost that the policy a win-win.  The Main Street Alliance advisory board members representing the smallest and largest businesses on the board, K.B. Brown of Wolfpack Promotionals and Lynn Hoffman of Eureka Recycling, co-authored an op-ed in the Star Tribune challenging the opposition narrative.

Cesia Baires, owner of Abi’s Café, and Scot Isqoox, owner of Capitol Café, each had letters to the editor printed to demonstrate their support for a policy that incorporates micro businesses like theirs.

Members from out of state even weighed in, giving accounts of their experiences running small businesses in cities and states with paid sick leave policies already on the books. Shaun Sieren, the owner of O'Neills Public House in Portland, joined a press call with Minnesota businesses about a report on the successful implementation of sick time ordinances across the country. Just a day before the City Council considers amendments, Tony Sandkamp, the owner of Sandkamp Woodworks in Jersey City and MSA New Jersey member, shared his experience in Jersey City, where a paid sick days policy passed first with an exemption for micro businesses and later expanded to all businesses in an op-ed in MinnPost.

During the final city council meeting before the vote, several members spoke in support of the Earned Sick and Safe Time measure. They shared their personal stories and showed Councilmembers the faces of Minneapolis’s small business community.

While the months of hard work and advocacy may soon be behind Minneapolis leaders, they will continue the conversation and carry the campaign into St. Paul and throughout the state of Minnesota. They will continue to work to ensure that all Minnesotans can recover from illness or care for a sick loved one without losing income and putting downward pressure on the local economy.

Check out some of the featured testimony:

Dan Swenson-Klatt, owner of Butter Bakery Café



Jason Rathe, owner of Field Outdoor Spaces



Julie Kearns, owner of Junket: Tossed and Found



Frank Brown, owner of Uptown Minuteman Press



Executive Committee member David Borris testifies in support of policies designed to #TakeOnWallSt

Main Street Alliance Executive Committee member David Borris, the owner of Hel’s Kitchen Catering in Chicago, joined U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, other elected officials, and community groups to testify at the launch of the Take on Wall Street campaign; aimed at closing Wall Street tax loopholes, making banks smaller and simpler, and curbing predatory lending.

As the 2016 campaign season has demonstrated, Americans across the political spectrum remain angry and frustrated with Wall Street and the Big Banks, which they see as both drivers and beneficiaries of a rigged system. Wall Street billionaires continue to rake in outrageous profits through business practices that hurt working families—families that are still struggling to recover from the crisis Wall Street greed and recklessness precipitated eight years ago. Poll after poll demonstrates that most Americans strongly favor financial reform to support a fair economy.

With ambitious policy goals, the campaign looks to establish a more equitable and inclusive economy and to convert the anger about Wall Street's growing political and economic dominance into concrete, bold and lasting legislative gains at the state, local, and federal levels.

"Predatory lenders and tax-avoiding corporations work in concert to extract wealth from my community, leaving my customers, the lifeblood of my business, trapped in a perpetual cycle of debt and absorbing a larger share of our mutual tax responsibility. We must usher in a set of rules that reins in predatory lending, holds corporations accountable to pay their fair share in taxes, and returns the wealth of communities to the hands of local consumers," said Borris.

Main Street Alliance recommends the following policy solutions that will begin to rebalance the economy: 

1.    Close the carried interest loophole which permits private equity and hedge fund managers pay a lower tax rate than most working Americans.

2.    Introduce a Wall Street speculation tax on sales of derivatives, stocks, bonds, and other financial products that would raise billions of dollars, bring banks closer to paying their fair of taxes, and stop some forms of destructive high-frequency trading outright.

3.    Make banks simpler, smaller and safer. End ‘too big to fail,’ and reinstitute the Glass-Stegall separation between commercial and investment banks.

4.    Close the CEO bonus loophole, which permits corporations to pay less in taxes the more they pay their executives.

5.    End Predatory Lending and expand access to fair safe financial services by supporting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and expanding access to fair and equitable banking.

IP28 lands on the Oregon's November ballot

Initiative Petition 28 would raise taxes on C-Corporations grossing over $25 million annually.

Oregon leaders joined nearly 100 volunteers, fellow small business owners, and coalition partners to announce the successful campaign to place Initiative Petition 28 (IP28) on the November ballot.

The group collected over 130,000 signatures–qualifying IP28 for the upcoming Presidential election ballot. IP28 was the first petition to quality in the state and the early filing indicates the strong support from Oregon's community members and small business owners.  


Peter Emerson, owner of Bipartisan Cafe in Portland (pictured left) provided a statement in support of the initiative during the press event surrounding the announcement.

IP28 would modestly raise the effective tax rate of C-Corporations earning more than $25 million per year and use the added revenue to fund Oregon's crippled public school system, provide services to seniors, and extend health care coverage to 18,000+ children.

The new tax would generate an estimated $2.5 billion annually–changing the structure of the vital programs that protect our most vulnerable community members and shape the minds of future generations. 

The signatures were delivered to the Secretary of State's office for verification on Friday.




Ohio Member Attends Press Event Announcing New DOL Overtime Rule with Secretary Perez & Vice President Biden


Ohio Organizer Gwendolyn Green (L) and Molly Dullea, owner of the General Denver Hotel (R) with OH Senator Sherrod Brown

In a press event attended by Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Vice President Joe Biden, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, and other elected officials and leaders the Department of Labor's new overtime rule was announced at a Columbus-based ice cream shop. 

Main Street Alliance of Ohio leader Molly Dullea, owner of General Denver Hotel in Wilmington, OH was personally invited by Secretary Perez to attend the event. Molly, who currently pays all of her salaried employees overtime, provided her support for the rule and offered the following statement:

“Salaried employees dedicate long hours to make sure their employer’s business venture is a success. Extended hours and open availability make it impossible for most salaried employees to seek part-time employment to supplement their income, making it that much more important that they are compensated fairly, based on the hours they put in,” said Molly Dullea, owner of the General Denver Hotel in Wilmington, OH and Main Street Alliance of Ohio Member. “Paying an employee a salary shouldn’t be a means to take advantage of an employee’s time or to provide your business with cheap labor.”

The new rule will take effect on December 1st, 2016 and will provide access to overtime pay for salaried employees earning less than $47,476 annually. 

District Court Judge Deals Blow to Obamacare Cost-Sharing Subsidy Program

Small business owners speak out against House Republicans latest assault on the ACA

U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled yesterday that the Obama Administration has been improperly funding a key subsidy program. While the ruling is widely considered a huge victory for the House GOP, the program will be allowed to continue pending appeal.  

The 2008 Affordable Care Act (ACA) aimed to expand access to affordable healthcare to millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans by, among other measures, creating two subsidy programs for individuals who enroll in the health insurance marketplace.

The premium tax credit that helps subsidize the cost of insurance premiums to anyone earning between 100% and 400% of the poverty level and the cost-sharing reduction, which helps pay for deductibles, co-payments, and other out-of-pocket charges, and are only for individuals earning between 100% and 250% of the poverty level. The latter of the two, the cost-sharing reduction, was dealt a blow today when Judge Collyer ruled it was improperly funded. Unlike the premium tax credit, these subsidies are paid directly to the insurance company or medical vendor. As of mid-2015, there were 5.6 million enrollees covered by plans that included cost-sharing subsidies.

The lawsuit, filed last year by House Republicans challenged the cost-sharing subsidy and argued that the subsidies cannot be paid directly to insurers because Congress did not appropriate the money for these payments. Judge Collyer agreed and ruled that the Obama Administration had indeed been improperly funding the subsidy program. She wrote that Congress authorized the program but never provided money for it.  

The case will now head to the U.S. Court of Appeals. If allowed to stand, the ruling could potentially be a setback for millions of low-income Americans and make insurance costs higher. If the cost-sharing subsidies are eliminated, insurers could increase premiums up to 20 to 30 percent to make up for the loss. This could mean higher premium tax credits and a higher cost to the federal government. 

In response to the ruling, members of the Main Street Alliance Executive Committee made the following statements:

“Today’s District Court ruling marks the latest politically motivated attack on Obamacare and, if it stands, could increase costs for millions of Americans living at or near the poverty line. My customers and my community members can’t afford to have their access to affordable healthcare limited. Increasing their costs and limiting their resources won’t help my bottom line, either," says Jim Houser, owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland, Oregon

“Taking aim at the cost-sharing subsidies that help low-income Americans manage out-of-pocket healthcare expenses is little more than political posturing at the expense of hardworking men and women and the ruling must move swiftly to the D.C. Court of Appeals where it should ultimately be overturned," says David Borris, owner of Hel's Kitchen Catering in Chicago 

"Any ruling that deprives access to affordable health insurance will increase my cost of providing health insurance for me and my employees. I am always working to increase my profitability and if it is allowed to stand this action by the court will decrease it. Here's a great big Thank You! to Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republican Congressional Leadership, for making my job a little bit more worrisome than it already is," says Kelly Conklin, owner of Foley-Waite LLC in Kenilworth, New Jersey

Vermont Legislature Approves Funding for Dr. Dynasaur Study

After days of negotiation, the budget conference committee decided to include financing for a study to explore expanding Vermont’s successful Dr. Dynasaur program to include everyone up through age 26 regardless of family income. The House and Senate approved the budget bill late Friday night.

“This is an important step toward addressing the out of control costs of health care in our state,” said Lindsay DesLauriers, Director of Main Street Alliance of Vermont. “We believe this study will show a way to find real health care savings for Vermonters and appreciate the work of the legislature and especially the leadership of Speaker Shap Smith and Representative Johnson.”

As Vermonters and Vermont businesses continue to struggle with the rising costs of health coverage in our state, the Dr. Dynasaur 2.0 plan offers a solution: eliminate the need for costly family insurance plans. By expanding upon Vermont's highly acclaimed and widely accepted Dr. Dynasaur program, Dr. Dynasaur 2.0 aims to provide provide health, dental, vision, and mental health care to an additional 120,000 young Vermonters and relieve employers and families of the high costs associated with most family health plans.

“In the decades I have been doing business in Vermont, I have witnessed health care costs skyrocket. For businesses like Main Street Landing that offer insurance, the high cost is taking a huge toll, and for people who don’t have employer sponsored health insurance, that toll is becoming a roadblock,” Melinda Moulton, founder and CEO of Main Street Landing, penned in an opinion editorial earlier this year.

The results of the study will examine the tax and public health implications of expanding Dr. Dynasaur, so that legislators may decide whether to move forward with the plan in the next legislative session.

Main Street Alliance of Ohio Members Deliver Testimony in Support of Pregnancy Accommodation Bill


"The purpose is to reinforce what should already be happening, that businesses that are able to make reasonable accommodations are doing so, and that women are not forced to choose between their job and a healthy pregnancy."

- Mike Held, owner of The Old Trail Printing Company


After months of organizing, the Main Street Alliance of Ohio members had their voices heard at the long awaited proponent testimony hearing on the Reasonable Accommodation Act. Although the day was fraught with delays, a special thank you goes out to LeAnne Johnson Absolom of Peace Love Bling and Mike Held of Old Trail Printing Company for waiting nearly four hours to provide testimony. 

Both Absolom and Held delivered impactful, emotional, and very different statements. Absolom spoke about the intersectionality of women’s health and social justice that job loss can have on a woman who is pregnant. “The astronomical health care costs combined with the immoral disregard for the health and safety of two human lives, both mother and child, is unconscionable, and we cannot continue to allow employers to essentially give an ultimatum to their female employees,” said Absolom. “The choices currently seem to be (1) ignore a Doctor’s order to take precautions in order work as long as possible at the risk of personal and fetal health or (2) to observe doctor’s orders at the risk of mothers losing their jobs or compromising their long-term income because their employer is allowed to use their pregnancy as a reason to discharge them or limit their opportunities for advancement due to ‘performance issues’.”

Mike Held shared a very personal story about his daughter, Rebecca’s experience: “The other reason I am committed to seeing this legislation pass is a very personal one. My daughter Rebecca has had nine miscarriages. When she was able to carry, she had a baby that was premature. Her employer allowed her to leave daily to visit the hospital to continue to bond with the baby. Rebecca’s second child required she be on complete bed rest for the last two months of her pregnancy. Again she was granted the time off with no threat to her employment. Very sadly Rebecca lost her child at three months due to SIDS. Again she was allowed to take time off.  Accommodation may be physical as well as emotional. Rebecca had her third child, and he is thriving now age 4. Rebecca has started a foundation in her second child’s name for homeless children. When an employer treats you well, you will be loyal forever. Rebecca is still at the same employer, has been promoted many times and never plans to leave her job.”

ABC News covered the hearing, and later requested an interview with Held to talk further about reasonable pregnancy accommodations. The MSA-OH Team convened at Old Trail Printing where Held was interviewed along with some of his employees. They finished with a video tour of his of his facility.

Ohio Members Gather to Urge Lawmakers to Support SB 301, the Pregnancy Accommodation Act

Ohio senators, faith leaders, small business owners, and doctors gathered at Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square to urge lawmakers to support legislation that ends workplace discrimination against pregnant women.

If passed, the bill would lay out a set of commonsense rules for business owners that ensure accommodations are being made for pregnant and breastfeeding employees. Too many women are forced to make the impossible decision of losing their income or continuing to work when the nature of their work may be harmful to them or their child.

Members of the Main Street Alliance met last month with State Senator Charleta Tavares (D)- District 15 at a roundtable discussion at a Columbus jewelry store. There, the group discussed the economic impact imposed on a family forced to lose income during a pregnancy and the ripple effect that has on their businesses.

As the group assured the Senator at that meeting, the member businesses of the Main Street Alliance of Ohio welcome a new set of rules and will gladly make simple accommodations to keep women working when they need it most, and allow them to participate in their local economy.

"The proposed requirements for employers are VERY minimal. I have many women working for me who become pregnant and subsequently deliver. They have proven to be hard working and responsible about maternity leave. Providing a place to breastfeed or "pump" is not a problem for us. We encourage time and bonding with their child. Being a woman-owned company I know firsthand how difficult it was for me," says Molly Dullea, owner of The General Denver Hotel.

" As a business owner and a father and grandfather. The goal of Senate Bill 301 is not to create a burden for businesses. The purpose is to reinforce what should already be happening, that businesses that can make reasonable accommodations are doing so, and that women are not forced to choose between their job and a healthy pregnancy,” says Mike Held, owner of The Old Trail Printing Company.

"The long-term repercussions of discriminating against pregnant women have more and more impact on the State budget than the temporary, reasonable accommodations we are asking employers to provide during pregnancy,” says LeAnne Absolom, owner of Peace Love Bling.


During Small Business Week, Minnesota Members Push for Community Investments, Not Tax Cuts

While Minnesota enjoys a budget surplus, Main Street businesses weigh in on how to put the added revenue to use, favoring local infrastructure investments over tax cuts. 

During Small Business Week and throughout the year, small business owners can speak for themselves on the issues facing Minnesota. When big business groups and corporate lobbyists push a tax-cutting and service-gutting agenda, they're not speaking for the small businesses on Main Street.

Here in Minnesota, we know the results of that agenda all too well. We've had to dig ourselves out from years of budget deficits that began with a tax rebate similar to what's being proposed i the legislature now.

Just as small businesses have to invest their surpluses wisely, so should the state invest its surplus in things that will benefit as many people as possible instead of just a fortunate few.

Our businesses thrive when our communities thrive, and we could do much more to benefit the hard-working people of Minnesota if we appropriately allocated the budget surplus by bolstering our public education and infrastructure, and increasing support to those struggling to make ends meet.

We’ve worked hard to grow our businesses and create jobs for our community members. As a result, less than ten years after one of the worst economic downturns on record Minnesota enjoys a budget surplus. And CNBC rates Minnesota as the best place for business in the country. The small businesses that line our city’s streets and employ over half of the state’s workers built this budget surplus and deserve a say in how the revenue is put to use.

We have already learned how tax cuts for big business, and the wealthy few will halt our progress and undo the economic strides Minnesotans have made these last few years. In honor of Small Business Week and the contributions that local, independent businesses make to our communities year round, we urge lawmakers to listen to the voices of Main Street.

"The small benefit I would get from a cut to my statewide property tax is not enough to impact my business model.  By combining my resources with others in the form of business property taxes, our state can ensure a more stable and resilient work force.  As a business owner and a citizen, it's important to me that the state uses our collective dollars to invest in an infrastructure that supports workers at my restaurant and in my community."    Holly Hatch- Surisook, Owner, Sen Yai Sen Lek, Minneapolis, MN.

“As a small business owner, a mother, and a concerned citizen, I believe any budget surplus should be reinvested in our infrastructure, transportation, clean energy and education.  Having a highly educated workforce should be a top priority in our state.  Minnesota can be made an even greater state to live in by educating our population without saddling our young adults with crippling student loan debt as they exit college.

Additionally, tax cuts should be created to assist small businesses rather than expecting any benefit from the elusive "trickle-down" effect from corporate tax breaks.  Helping small businesses will stimulate local economy and make our communities more vibrant." Terri Emmerich, owner, Spice of Life Tea Shoppe, St Cloud, MN

“These proposed corporate and other tax cuts will not benefit me or my business at all. As a matter of fact these tax cuts will likely result in my personal property taxes going up because of the shortfalls in infrastructure and education investment revenues. We’ve already seen what tax cuts like these cause…budget deficit after budget deficit, and rising property taxes. We did that for ten years. Why would we go back to doing that?” Todd Mikkelson, owner, Sprayrack by the RM Group, Orono, MN


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Vermont Governor Shumlin Signs Bill to ‘Ban the Box’


Sue Bette of Bluebird Barbeque in  Burlington testifies in support of Ban the Box legislation

This afternoon, Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill to ‘Ban the Box’ on employment applications. This new law will require employers to delay inquiring about criminal history until after their other qualifications have been assessed. Banning the box that asks about criminal history on an initial application form gives those with a criminal conviction a fair shot at employment.

“When the legislature began considering a bill to ‘Ban the Box,’ there was no shortage of interest and involvement from small business owners,” said Lindsay DesLauriers, Director of Main Street Alliance of Vermont. “We were happy to work with a great coalition of organizations on this issue, including Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility and the Governor’s Council on Pathways from Poverty." 

Sue Bette, owner of Bluebird Barbecue in Burlington, testified during committee hearings and gave a voice to business owners who support fair chance hiring practices.

“During my seven years of owning a business in Vermont, I have employed community members who have a criminal record. In working with these individuals, I have witnessed the difficulties of recovering from this past. I have seen the challenges of balancing a healthy recovery, managing work, life, finances, and family obligations,” said Bette during her testimony to the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs. “I believe that this policy change will assist in creating a path to success for those who have served their sentence and have earned an opportunity for recovery and to pursue new dreams.”

Other small business owners submitted written testimony, and opinion editorials that helped to inform the conversation. Jason Aprea, owner of BBetter Inc., shared his experience of struggling to get a job post-incarceration and deciding instead to open a gym with his wife. The bill passed with overwhelming support in both the House and Senate.

In addition to Vermont, Main Street Alliance leaders have spoken out in support of Ban the Box and Fair Chance hiring legislation across the national network, most notably in Florida, Oregon, New York, and Virginia. 


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