This week, two of our most active members in Minnesota shared some great news with us, and they are owed huge congratulations from the Main Street community. Lynn Hoffman and Kate Davenport, are moving into new roles at Minneapolis-based Eureka Recycling. The two will serve as co-CEO’s, leading a team of more than 80 employees.
Lynn and Kate's forward-thinking leadership and commitment to Eureka's mission of both environmental and economic sustainability prove that high-roads waste companies can succeed when they invest in their employees and community. Honoring a zero-waste commitment, Eureka’s focuses on reuse, recycling, composting, waste reduction and producer responsibility. Company-wide they employ more than 80 members of the community, providing each with living wages.
Eureka recently won long-term contracts with the Cities of Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and Roseville to provide recycling services for the next 5 + years. Eureka's success shows that businesses don’t just survive but thrive on the high road, and it also demonstrates how local municipalities can align their values with companies that invest in their employees and protect the environment.
Kate and Lynn have long led Eureka's advocacy efforts on a range of issues from zero-waste to clean energy. They have served as founding advisory board members of Main Street Alliance of Minnesota and were part of the cohort of business leaders who helped shape and pass the state's first Earned Sick and Safe Time ordinance in Minneapolis by testifying, attending press conferences and writing op-eds. They continue to support policies that work toward economic and racial justice and help shape the kind of cities and states in which we live and do business.
For all of their great work and for taking on new and exciting roles with the company we offer them our sincerest congratulations on this huge step and look forward to the work we can do together in 2017 and beyond.
DOL Issues Final Rules on President Obama’s Executive Order Granting Paid Sick Days to Federal Contractors
The final rule, coupled with the success of state and local policies advocated for by Main Street businesses, should encourage Congress to pass broad federal legislation.
In an address delivered on Labor Day, 2015 President Obama said his Executive Order granting paid sick days to federal contractors would “increase efficiency and cost savings in work performed by parties that contract with the government.” Cost savings and increased efficiency are among the reasons Main Street small business owners support paid sick days legislation at the local and federal level in addition to protecting fellow employees and customers from communicable illnesses and matching the offerings of their larger competitors.
Main Street Alliance members have played active roles in paid sick days in crafting and passing paid sick days legislation across the country at the state and national level, most recently in passing a comprehensive earned sick and safe time policy in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Advisory Board members in the Twin Cities sat on task forces to explore the language, implementation, and efficacy of the policy and determined it was in the best interests of small businesses to implement a minimum standard for paid sick days.
“Not only is an earned paid sick days ordinance the right thing to do, but it makes business sense. The advantages we gain in the areas of employee acquisition, retention, and productivity will help us do our jobs better, and will make St. Paul, and our country a better place to do business,” said Shannon Forney, the owner of Workhorse Coffee in St. Paul, MN
Joining cities like Seattle, Portland, Burlington, Jersey City, and Minneapolis, the Federal government will now serve as an example to private sector business owners and big business lobbyists who fail to see the benefits of a policy that levels the playing field for all businesses and employees while mitigating costs through increased productivity. As well, such programs reduce a phenomenon known as “presenteeism,” where an employee is present at work but due to illness is not performing well and at greater risk of making a costly mistake or becoming injured in the workplace.
The final rules and subsequent implementation of President Obama’s order will provide yet another example for Congress to consider when taking action on pending legislation aimed at reducing barriers to paid sick leave access and making such policies accessible to small business owners who can’t afford to offer the benefit to their employees while remaining competitive with low-road competitors without a policy on the books.
“We thank and applaud President Obama and Labor Secretary Perez for this important step in providing working families a choice beyond caring for their families or making a living,” said Beth Sachs, the Founder of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC), and a member of Main Street Alliance of Vermont. “As a federal contractor and a mission-driven organization that seeks to promote a healthy planet with thriving people, VEIC supports this action through our existing policies. We recognize that our employees are our most valuable asset and that their ability to care for their families is paramount not just to them, but to society as a whole.”
Main Street Alliance and our member businesses applaud the President for putting a policy in place for federal contractors and the DOL for issuing strong rules on implementation and compliance. We urge Congress to heed the call of small business owners and our employees and move forward with a universal standard for paid sick days, like the Healthy Families Act, which applies to all businesses regardless of size or location.
“As a CEO and mother, I believe that we need to change norms in corporate America to enable working parents to succeed, both in the workplace and at home. This begins with paid sick days. When parents get the time they need to help a child get well they come back to work as more loyal and productive employees,” said Sabrina Parsons, CEO Palo Alto Software, Eugene, Oregon.
“In a civilized society workers should not be penalized for taking time off from their jobs to care for themselves and their families. Allowing employees to earn paid sick days ensures the health and welfare of our workforce and instills loyalty and a sense of personal well-being that will translate to a stronger bottom line for business. The Healthy Families Act makes sense for employers and employees,” said Melinda Moulton, CEO Main Street Landing, Burlington, Vermont.
"When you stop being scared and do the math, paid sick days become more attainable to small businesses. This is especially true for the Healthy Families Act, which would make paid sick days the standard nationwide and level the playing field between businesses that allow their workers to earn paid time off and those that don't,” said Molly Moon Neitzel, Owner of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream, Seattle, Washington.
Read the DOL's final rules HERE.
MSA Leaders Urge Congress to Support the Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act
Members of the Main Street Alliance National Executive Committee and the National Action Committee penned the following letter today to Congress asking for their support on an Act aimed at increasing incorporation transparency and reducing the use and resulting harm caused by anonymous shell companies.
September 27, 2016
Dear Member of Congress,
As national leaders of the Main Street Alliance, the following businesses owners write to urge you to support the Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act (S.2489/H.R. 4450). The Main Street Alliance is a national network of small businesses who engage on important public policy issues that work for business owners, their employees, and the communities they serve. This bill, which would help curb tax evasion, corruption, and fraud facilitated by anonymous shell companies, is central to this mission.
The Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act would require the owners of companies to put their own name on an incorporation form. This simple act is critically important to those of us who have seen or experienced the harm resulting from anonymous shell companies. Anonymously-owned companies or those whose owners are hidden, fuel corruption, and corruption distorts markets. Shell companies win contracts on the basis of false promises, rather than legitimate competitive advantage. Consider the following:
- One couple created a string of anonymously owned companies and won U.S. government contracts by submitting extremely low bids. They then subcontracted to other businesses for the actual goods and services. The couple received the fees from the government but never paid the subcontractors. They shut down their anonymous company and set up new ones, frustrating law enforcement investigations and creating new opportunities to repeat the scam. (1)
- A U.S defense contractor used his position to secure more than $1.1 million worth of contracts for a Tennessee-based company that he secretly owned, but his wife ran under her maiden name to hide their conflict of interest. (2)
- Anonymous companies are used by patent trolls to file lawsuits, costing the companies they target $80 billion per year in lost profits and legal costs. These lawsuits serve to squash innovation and harm fragile start-ups. (3)
Sadly, these are just a few of the countless examples of the harm caused by anonymous companies and the consequences for small business. Whether losing out on an initial contract or finding themselves on the fraudulent end of a commercial transaction, small businesses cannot be expected to compete with the ever-changing scams perpetrated by the owners of anonymous companies.
Requiring secretive businesses to come out from the shadows will benefit small businesses in several ways. It will reduce conflicts of interest and cronyism in contracting, as well as curb false billing of contractors and fraudulent certification for small, disadvantaged, veteran, or disability-owned businesses. Furthermore, ownership information will help prevent those who previously defrauded taxpayers from establishing a new sham operation and winning new contracts. And speaking for those businesses who honestly pay their taxes, it will make it harder for bad corporate actors to gain advantage through tax evasion.
In short, transparency levels the playing field so that businesses will engage in open competition based on product or service quality, organizational efficiencies, and talent. That is a market in which we can compete.
Congress should quickly pass S. 2489/H.R. 4450 to end the corrupt practices associated with anonymous companies and support a healthier environment for small business. Further, we ask that you ensure any additional bill on incorporation transparency include a robust standard for beneficial ownership and make available this information to both law enforcement agencies and financial institutions.
Main Street Alliance Executive Committee Members
David Borris, Hel's Kitchen Catering Northbrook, Illinois
Melanie Collins, Melanie’s Home Childcare Falmouth, Maine
Kelly Conklin, Foley-Waite and Associates Bloomfield, New Jersey
Jim Houser, Hawthorne Auto Clinic Portland, Oregon
Reshonda Young, Popcorn Heaven Waterloo, Iowa
Main Street Alliance National Action Committee Members
Paul Heroux, Handyman Orlando, Florida
Andy Lytle, Receptor Sound & Lighting Orlando, Florida
Sumner Richards IV, S. Fernald's Country Store & Deli Damariscotta, Maine
Frank Brown, Minuteman Press Minneapolis, Minnesota
Todd Mikkelson, Sprayrack Minneapolis, Minnesota
Samia Bahsoun, Capwave Technologies Ashbury Park, New Jersey
Tony Sandkamp, Sandkamp Woodworks LLC Jersey City, New Jersey
Amy Collins, New Shelves Pittsford, New York
Jayson Waits, Bloomtastic Florist Columbus, Ohio
Molly Dullea, General Denver Hotel Wilmington, Ohio
Rosalind McCallard, Snackrilege Portland, Oregon
Maurice Rahming, O’Neill Construction Group Portland, Oregon
Caleb Magoon, Power Play Sports & Waterbury Sports Morrisville, Vermont
Matthew Birong, 3 Squares Cafe Vergennes, Vermont
Download a PDF of the letter HERE
1 FBI, Conspirator Sentenced to Prison in $2.3 Million Government Contract Fraud Scheme,
http://www.fbi.gov/baltimore/press-releases/2014/conspirator-sentenced-to-prison-in-2.3-million-government-contract-fraud-scheme; US DOJ Press Release, Clinton Woman Pleads Guilty In $2.3 Million Government Contract Fraud Scheme, http://www.justice.gov/usao/md/news/2013/CLINTONWOMANPLEADSGUILTYIN2.3MILLION.html
2 United States Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Virginia, Former employee of defense contractor and wife sentenced for conspiring to obtain millions in fraudulent scheme involving vehicle parts for Afghan National Army, February 14, 2014, available athttps://www.justice.gov/usao-edva/pr/former-employee-defense-contractor-and-wife-sentenced-conspiring-obtain-millions.
3 James Bessen, Jennifer Ford, & Michael J. Meurer, “The Private and Social Costs of Patent Trolls,” Regulation 26, 2012.
As Councilmembers consider a Paid Family and Medical Leave policy for the District, D.C.'s "cupcake queen" extends her support to the measure that she says will help her business and improve the lives of her employees.
Doron Petersan owns Sticky Fingers vegan bakery in Columbia Heights and Farewell, a bakery, diner and bar on H Street. Today, the two-time winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars stepped out of the bakery and spoke as a member of the DMV Small Business Alliance (a project of Main Street Alliance) in support of a Paid Family and Medical Leave policy for D.C. Doron told the crowd of around 100 that as a small business owner she knows her employees and business will benefit from a Paid Family and Medical Leave policy, particularly from one funded by small contributions to an insurance pool.
“Paid Family Leave is a benefit that everyone should have access to, regardless of the size of their employer,” she said. “Policy that understands the demand for employees to balance time between their careers and their families makes good business sense. When we as employers can meet the needs of our staff and their families, we can attract and retain a talented and committed workforce that will grow our businesses.”
Doron was joined by a dozen other speakers who spoke to the need and impact of time off to recover from illness, care for a sick loved one, or welcome a new baby to the home. Doron was in a unique position to speak as both a business owner whose employees would benefit from the policy and as an individual who would personally benefit from access to the protections. In DC, the pooled insurance fund could be used by small business owners, too.
“I am someone whose business plan reflects my values,” Doron continued, “health, wellness, and social responsibility top my list of priorities, right alongside turning a profit and creating more jobs. An insurance pool funded Paid Family Leave policy allows more small and micro-businesses to live their values and match the offerings of their larger competitors and helps level the playing field for the shops and restaurants on Main Street.”
With a paid leave policy on the books, one funded by employer contributions of just 1 percent of payroll, DC businesses will have the opportunity to provide a benefit that helps employees, businesses, and the community. “Policy that is socially conscious and cost effective is a no-brainer for small business owners in the District. I urge lawmakers and my fellow entrepreneurs to work together to build a stronger local business climate and heed the call for Paid Family and Medical Leave,” said Doron.
New Jersey Steering Committee member Marilyn Sealy's testimony, delivered Tuesday helped ensure Morristown became the 13th New Jersey municipality to pass an earned sick day policy.
"When I heard other businesses didn't offer earned sick days I couldn't believe it," Marilyn testified before a packed town council
meeting."I've always offered them, and it's good for my business."
Marilyn owns Wells Rugs Service, a carpet and rug cleaning service that has operated in Morristown since 1921. Shortly after her testimony, the township passed the earned sick day ordinance by six votes to 1.
The law enables employees to earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Staff of businesses with 10 or more employees can earn five paid sick days per year; while those in firms with nine or fewer employees can earn three paid sick days per year. Food service and healthcare workers can earn five sick days regardless of company size. Employees may use sick days to care for themselves or their sick children, siblings, parents, grandparents or grandchildren.
Morristown joins New Jersey municipalities Jersey City, Newark, East Orange, Irvington, Passaic, Paterson, Trenton, Montclair, Elizabeth, Plainfield, New Brunswick and Bloomfield in having enacted an earned sick days policy at the municipal level. In total, 35 municipalities throughout the United States have passed earned sick day ordinances.
Marilyn dismissed concerns played up by those opposing earned sick days that the ordinance would hurt businesses, or that employees would take advantage of their employees.
"We don't want workers coming to work sick, they could infect their co-workers, our customers, or even get into accidents," she said. "And I think the fact that my employees have stayed with me for 10 or 20 years has something to do with the fact that I offer earned sick days. It creates very loyal workers."
Trump’s Paid Maternity Leave Policy Falls Short, Could Impose Unknown Costs on Small Business Owners
Small business owners are overlooked by a policy proposal that would likely increase employer costs while failing to provide adequate coverage.
Although a universal paid family and medical leave program could provide a significant benefit for many small business owners, Mr. Trump’s plan misses the mark. Under Mr. Trump’s maternity leave plan, small business owners would likely bear the cost of a policy that doesn’t do enough to address the real needs of their employees.
Mr. Trump’s plan offers only limited six weeks of paid maternity leave, with no benefit for non-birth parents (fathers, partners and adoptive parents). The plan also does not provide coverage for care of a family member who is elderly or ill. By offering only a short recovery period for recovering mothers and omitting care time for sick relatives all together, Mr. Trump’s proposal leaves the small business owners on Main Street in a familiar position. The responsibility for developing and funding necessary family care for employees would continue to fall on them. Paid family and medical leave is a critical program that can allow small employers to recruit and retain valuable team members and measure up to offerings of their competitors.
Mr. Trump also claims that his maternity care plan can be paid through unemployment insurance. He claims the added cost of the benefit would be covered by eliminating waste and abuse in the unemployment insurance system and through the use of spending rebates in the Earned Income Tax Credit for lower-income families. The policy lacks coherence and clarity and potentially threatens an already under-resourced unemployment insurance system.
Main Street business owners have criticized both the plan’s limited coverage for parental and medical leave and are wary that the plan will not provide the relief they need as employers:
“The idea that the policy applies to women only is both sexist and anti-family. It flies in the face of the modern construct of family and shows just how out of touch Trump is with the middle class,” said Molly Moon Neitzel, the owner of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream with seven locations in Seattle. “This policy does so little to help employees that I would still have to foot the bill for a private policy while contributing to the unknown costs of Trump’s shortsighted and outdated policy. “
“As a business owner with first-hand experience with a government paid family leave policy here in New Jersey, I see Trump’s proposal as a significant step backward. It fails to address the critical need for family medical leave insurance for employees and business owners to recover from an illness or care for a sick loved one,” said Tony Sandkamp, the owner of Sandkamp Woodworks in Jersey City."
U.S. Census Bureau reports that real median household income increased 5.2 percent from 2014-2015, boosting consumer confidence and spending, and raising income to near pre-recession levels.
Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released their report, “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015” showing the first increase in median household incomes since 2007, and a 1.2 percent decrease in our nation’s poverty rate.
In the midst of slow recovery, this uptick in household incomes is music to the ears of Main Street small business owners who have already begun to feel the impact on their bottom line as incomes surged to near pre-recession levels. The boost in household income is one factor in recently reported increases in consumer spending, particularly in the retail and food service sectors.
Also encouraging was the decrease in households living below the poverty line. A 1.2 percent decrease from 2014 is representative of 1.1 million families and 3.5 million individuals who can now play a more significant role in their local economies and conduct business at the shops and restaurants on Main Street.
Looking at the numbers by race, Hispanic households fared the best with a 6.1 percent bump in pay, while Black households saw the smallest boost of just 4.1 percent. Wages grew at a similar rate for both men and women, while women still brought home just 80 percent of what their male counterparts earned, albeit a 3 percent improvement from the year prior.
The data shows that despite a slow and unsteady recovery, wages are recovering well and small business owners are in their strongest position to thrive in over a decade. Still, the pay gap in place for women and the slower growth experienced by Black households is concerning.
Confident that rising wages will give way to more rapid economic growth, Main Street small business owners vow to continue advocating for state and local wages increases and call on Congress to raise the wage at the federal level, narrowing the gender gap, and fueling the local economies on which their businesses depend.
“Any time there is a boost in household incomes the small businesses on Main Street can anticipate a positive impact on their bottom line. We’ve seen it in Seattle, L.A., and throughout the country,” said Amanda Ballantyne, National Director of the Main Street Alliance. “We need to continue to work to put small businesses in the best position to succeed by raising wages nationwide, closing the gender-based pay gap and ensuring equal participation in our consumer-driven economy for women and people of color.”
Small business owners with the Main Street Alliance of New Jersey joined New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak and allies Monday in urging the state legislature to vote on a proposed bill that would close corporate tax loopholes for multi-state corporations.
If signed into law, the "combined reporting" bill would help level the playing field for small business owners while raising nearly $300 million in additional state revenue.The bill passed through the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee earlier this year, and awaits a floor vote on Thursday. It has been introduced in the State Assembly, New Jersey's lower legislative house, but has yet to brought to committee votes there.
At a press conference in Trenton small business owners Marilyn Sealy, Jill Sasso, and Barbara Stanton called first and foremost for tax fairness.
“All businesses benefit from the public services, education, and infrastructure that New Jersey has to offer,” said Jill Sasso of Lawrenceville Provisions in Lawrenceville." I’m here to ask the state legislature to make sure that all multi-state corporations pay their fair share for these services.”
Combined reporting treats the parent company and subsidiaries of multi-state corporations as one entity for state corporate income tax purposes. Without combined reporting, such corporations can shift profits across state lines, and end up paying a lower effective tax rate than small businesses. The New Jersey Office of Legislative Services estimates that closing these tax loopholes could raise an additional $290 million in state revenue to invest in schools, roads, public services and other building blocks of a healthy state economy. More than half the states that levy a corporate business tax now require it.
“I run a family-owned business, and I pay my fair share of taxes and fees,” said Marilyn Sealy, the owner of Wells Rugs Service in Morristown. “I don’t hide my revenue through some P.O. box in another state, and neither should multi-state corporations. New Jersey needs the funding for many public services, and my business shouldn’t be the only one bearing the burden.”
Senator Lesniak, a primary sponsor of the bill, said he understood the frustration small business owners feel and called for his fellow lawmakers to support the proposed law. “They are upset because they have to pay what these multi-national corporations are not paying because they’re using accounting manipulations to avoid paying New Jersey taxes. This will put an end to that," said Lesniak.
More than 50 business owner have signed a letter of support for the law, with dozens more expected to join the campaign in weeks to come.
"Small businesses should not bear the burden of paying for services that benefit all businesses," said Barbara Stanton of Heritage Lighting. "Our state legislature needs to pass combined reporting into law as soon as possible.
Saint Paul is now home to the strongest paid sick days law in the country.
After months of council meetings, press conferences, social media activity and leadership engagement to raise public awareness, St. Paul members of the Main Street Alliance of Minnesota built on the successes of the Minneapolis campaign and ensured a policy was passed that is in the best interest of their businesses.
The Saint Paul City Council voted unanimously 7-0 to pass what many suggest is now the strongest earned sick and safe time ordinance in the country, one that ensures all employees in the city have access to paid sick time. The ordinance will take effect July 1, 2017.
“We are proud to support a strong, fair sick time ordinance as a basic floor for employees throughout the city”, said Shannon Forney, owner of Workhorse Coffee. “The benefits to providing sick time outweigh the costs a hundred fold. If we, a scrappy small business, not supported by capital investments, can do it, certainly other businesses can too”.
The vote came after a year-long campaign to win paid sick days for the 42% of employees in Saint Paul who did not have access to paid sick time. Dozens of small business owners took on leadership roles in the community and participated in roundtable discussions, forums, rallies and meetings with their council members to make Earned Sick and Safe Time a reality for every working family in Saint Paul.
The Main Street Alliance created a map marking more than 55 small businesses in St. Paul that pledged their support for the ordinance and took on leadership roles in their community, advocating on their own behalf to better the lives of their employees and customers while boosting their bottom lines.
Matt Zanetti, the owner of Lake Monster Brewing, shared his perspective as a both a parent and a business owner. “Allowing employees to earn paid sick days is a simple way to attract and retain the best staff members," said Zanetti. "I applaud the Council for passing an ordinance that puts me as the employer in the best position to meet the needs of my team and allows employees across the city to care for themselves and their families without lost income."
The ordinance closely follows the recommendations of the Earned Sick and Safe Time Task Force, appointed by the mayor and City Council in February to develop recommendations for a sick time ordinance and consisting of a broad representation of stakeholders including employees, business owners, and community leaders.
Consistent with the Task Force’s recommendations, all employees in Saint Paul will have access to Earned Sick and Safe Time. Staff members will accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours per year. Their paid time may be used to cover a wide-range of events including; time to care for themselves or a loved one through an illness or in the event of domestic, sexual violence or stalking or in the event of a school closure.
As proposed by the Task Force’s recommendations, the ordinance will be enforced through fines and a private right of action, the right of employees to sue their employers, if they face retaliation for taking their paid sick time.
Taking a short break to celebrate and relish in their success, St. Paul members will soon set their sights on statewide legislation, ensuring all businesses and employees in the North Star State can benefit from a minimum standard of earned paid sick leave.
Deborah Field, co-owner of Paperjam Press in Portland, is a former corporate tax accountant who knows how companies like Apple game the system at the expense of small business owners and average taxpayers.
In response to a New York Times article highlighting Apple's outstanding U.S. tax bill, Deborah penned the following letter that appeared first in the New York Times.
To the Editor:
Re “Apple, Congress and the Missing Taxes” (editorial, Aug. 31):
While the editorial is spot on in calling for an end to the deferral process, it sorely missed the mark in characterizing President Obama’s proposed repatriation rate as “reasonable.” Tax holidays incentivize bad business behavior and reward companies that extract wealth from communities with a deep discount and a clean conscience.
A 14 percent rate on repatriated funds previously held offshore is a handout to large multinational corporations at the expense of small-business owners and our customers. Far from reasonable, it’s been estimated by the Main Street Alliance that the proposed holiday rate would be a $20 billion gift to Apple.
With their nearly unlimited access to capital and ability to buy in bulk, industry giants like Apple already hold a competitive edge over small to mid-sized businesses, which can’t afford to hire high-priced tax accountants and lawyers to devise tax avoidance schemes.
To level the playing field for Main Street businesses, Congress must act to end deferral, stop incentivizing offshoring of revenues with tax holidays, and hold all companies accountable to pay what they owe when they owe it.
The writer, a small-business owner and former accountant, is a member of the Main Street Alliance.