In 1993 lawmakers on both sides of the aisle came together to enact the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). 22 years ago today the FMLA was implemented and began providing workers with the ability to take time off to care for themselves, or a sick or injured loved one, without fear of losing their job.
The FMLA was the first legislation of its kind and it was the first step in creating a fair and family friendly workplace environment. Since the law was implemented on August 5th, 1993 FMLA benefits have been used over 200 million times, according to a study conducted by the National Partnership for Women and Families.
While the policy has been a huge success, it only works for people who can afford it. Too many workers are unable to take advantage of their benefits due to the loss of income they would face while on leave. In fact, a Department of Labor study cited “financial impossibility” as the number one reason given when people were asked why they didn’t take leave that they were eligible for.
That is why Congress should pass the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMILY) Act to support families when they need it most. Small contributions from the employee and the employer would ensure that the employee will receive a portion of their salary during their period of leave. Similar insurance programs are in place in California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island and they serve as a testament to the success of the policy.
In today’s economy households depend on multiple earners, and small businesses depend on families that can afford to shop for their goods and services. Providing an insurance policy that allows workers to continue receiving a paycheck while they; take time off to welcome a new member of the family, recover from an illness, or provide care for a sick or injured loved one is the right move for families, businesses, and our economy.
The FMLA serves as a model for what Congress can get done when they work across the aisle and lend bi-partisan support to legislation. Congress should reach across the aisle again and pass the FAMILY Act, ensuring that all workers who are eligible for protected periods of leave can afford to take it.
Forty years ago Main Street Alliance of Florida member Charles McKinney made a mistake. A mistake he was reminded of every time he had to answer 'yes' on the criminal conviction question on job applications.
Now the owner of Trinity Laundry in Eatonville, Charles supports local efforts to remove the criminal conviction question from applications. He is calling on the President to take executive action on fair-chance hiring; expanding employment opportunities with federal agencies and contractors.
Breaking down barriers to employment with the federal government, the nation's largest employer, will reduce unemployment and increase consumer spending. The President has the opportunity to create a culture of fair-chance hiring that would support businesses, like Charles's, that are trying to do the right thing for their community.
Read Charles's full story featured in the Huffington Post.
National Executive Committee Member Kelly Conklin Testifies Before U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Stay focused on the goal, which is to make sure every American has access to high quality health care. That was National Executive Committee Member Kelly Conklin’s message to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) during the “Small Business Health Care Challenges and Opportunities” roundtable. Conklin, Owner and CEO at Foley Waite Associates in Bloomfield, New Jersey is a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act and he provided testimony on how the healthcare law currently works for business owners like him and how it should be developed to ensure it works for all small business owners.
At the Main Street Alliance we believe the Affordable Care Act is an important and crucial step forward for millions of Americans in gaining access to affordable healthcare coverage, but we know it can be improved upon. Kelly provided the perspective of a small business owner in New Jersey who purchases health insurance in a small group market. He laid out examples of what has worked and what hasn’t worked, and shared his policy recommendations with the committee.
His recommendations included; expanding tax credits available to small business owners, incorporating regional costs of living when determining subsidies, technological improvements in the SHOP exchange market place, and expanding Medicaid. He insisted that these changes are made while maintaining the robust consumer protections and oversight written into the law.
“Until every American has a card in their purse or wallet that guarantees access to a doctor- any doctor, anywhere, until emergency rooms only serve emergency patients and not emergency patients and the uninsured, I and my employees will pay too much for too little,” said Conklin
To see the full video of the Senate Committee Hearing visit: http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/small-business-health-care-challenges-and-opportunities
Here are some media stories from the hearings:
Senate Commerce & Labor Committee held on Monday March 30th 2015, 1:30PM Public: HB 1355, HB 1356, ESHB 1646; Executive: 1211, 1443, 1763; Work Session: Minimum wage.
Molly Moon: Please click here to watch video or paste this url into your browser address bar: http://tvw.org/index.php?option=com_tvwplayer&eventID=2015030234#start=1970&stop=2070
Tiffany Turner: Please click here to watch video or paste this url into your browser address bar:http://tvw.org/index.php?option=com_tvwplayer&eventID=2015030234#start=3669&stop=3750
Don Orange: Please click here to watch video or paste this url into your browser address bar: http://www.tvw.org/index.php?option=com_tvwplayer&eventID=2015030234#start=4145&stop=4245
I have a lot of titles in my life. I am a husband, father, college graduate, former corporate and small business employee, and retired small business owner. The list is long, and I am proud of it. In Florida, I am also called a “felon.” The title has stayed with me in the years since I served my sentence, and won’t go away.
I am not alone. There are 70 million adults with arrest or conviction records in the United States - or about one in three adults, according the National Employment Law Project. And men with criminal records account for about 34% of all nonworking men of prime working age. That’s a serious problem for our national economy and my local community in central Florida. Though every stratum of society is affected, communities of color are particularly hard hit. People of color are more likely to be arrested and to receive harsher punishments compared to their white counterparts. With little choice, the accused often take a plea deal, unaware of the life-long consequences of having a conviction.
When I tried to re-enter the workplace at the end of my sentence, I spoke with managers who would gladly have hired me. But the job application had “the box” asking “have you ever been convicted?” The managers couldn’t do much about it. I was rejected each time I responded with “yes.” I started my own business largely as a way to get around that barrier.
My business was primarily a painting and handyman service. Most of my customers were homeowners or small business owners themselves. I was very frank with all of them about my felony record. But my reputation for quality work, honesty, and my ability to connect with people helped me to overcome the stigma of having been incarcerated.
I’m grateful that I had the ability to set-up my own company, but that’s not possible for everyone with a record. I was fortunate enough to have the necessary skills to provide a service and I had access to the capital necessary to get my business started.
I joined Main Street Alliance of Florida, a network of local small business owners, to help change that. Along with nearly 200 civil and workers’ rights groups around the nation, we are calling on President Obama to take executive action to ensure that qualified job-seekers with past arrests or convictions are not automatically shut out of employment opportunities with federal agencies and federal contractors.
Although there are currently federal hiring requirements aligned with fair hiring principles, in practice federal agencies have broad discretion to adopt their own hiring policies, often with limited transparency. Executive action would ensure that the federal government fully embraces fair chance hiring in both policy and practice.
We are fighting to remove “the box” from job applications. Not only is it unfair to qualified job-seekers who have made amends for their past mistakes, but the box does a tremendous disservice to employers as well. By blindly screening out a significant portion of the applicant pool, employers may be missing out on some of the best and brightest candidates - people who may turn out to be among the most grateful and hard-working employees.
“Ban the box” and other “fair chance” hiring policies have been adopted with bipartisan support in 14 states, Washington DC, and 100 cities and counties so far. Georgia just became the latest state to ban the box. Republican Governor Nathan Deal signed an executive order on 23 February doing so because the policy will, in his words: “improve public safety, enhance workforce development, and provide increased state employment opportunities”.
These policies are gaining momentum around the country because people are realizing how persistent joblessness translates into economic losses with far-reaching consequences. In 2008, the reduced job prospects of people with felony convictions cost the US economy between $57 and $65 bn in lost output. At the individual level, serving time reduces annual earnings for men by 40%, meaning families too often fall into a poverty trap.
With the labor market gaining strength every month, the Obama administration should waste no time in ensuring that job applicants with past convictions can fairly compete for jobs and help contribute to a stronger economy. The federal initiative will translate into real opportunities, as nearly one in four US workers is employed either by a federal contractor, a subcontractor, or the federal government.
Expanding job opportunities for workers with prior records is fair for our society and smart for our economy. Making sure the path to employment is not blocked for people with records will restore dignity and hope to our communities. I should know. It made all the difference in the world to me.
On Monday December 15th, Main Street Alliance of Vermont held a press conference and reception to announce their 2015 legislative platform and to release a report of survey findings from a statewide small business survey conducted this past summer and fall.
Dozens of Main Street Alliance coalition members and several legislators were present at the event. Speakers included former Governor Madeline Kunin; Trudy Trombley, MSA member and owner of Truly Trudy's Cosmetics in Stowe and The Boutique at Stowe Mercantile; Stephanie Hainley, MSA member and COO of White and Burke Real Estate Investment Advisors; Representative Jill Krowsinki and Senator Philip Baruth, lead sponsors of this year's Earned Leave bill; Peter Sterling, Director of Vermont Leads, and Andrew Savage, Chief Strategy Office at All Earth Renewables.
Trombley and Hainley reported key findings from the survey, highlighting that out of all businesses surveyed, 49% support establishing a minimum standard of earned leave and just under 60% support moving forward with a universal, publicly financed healthcare system in Vermont.
See the links below for media coverage from the event:
VT Digger (Article) My Champlain Valley (Article & Video) Times Argus (Article) WPTZ (Article & Video)
Vermont has long been a leader in providing quality health care coverage, and now we have an opportunity as a state to demonstrate how to deliver an affordable and comprehensive universal healthcare system. This system could potentially save Vermonters half a billion dollars a year in overall healthcare costs, which is great news for small businesses.
Currently, it’s estimated that Vermonters spend about $2.7 billion annually on health care premiums and out of pocket costs, and although it seems like a big price tag, the $2-$2.2 billion anticipated cost for Green Mountain Care will be an overall decrease. In addition, taking employers out of the health insurance provision system means we'll no longer need to administer health insurance, reducing our overhead. The implementation of universal healthcare presents us with a unique opportunity to benefit the entire state.
In order to achieve these benefits for small businesses and our employees, however, it’s critical that we find the right balance in the financing plan - one that won’t hurt small businesses like ours or hard working Vermonters.
According to the December 5th VT Digger article that reported a leak from the Governor’s Advisory Council, an 8% payroll tax could be a part of the financing package for Green Mountain Care. While 8% sounds like a reasonable starting point for the conversation about payroll tax contributions, we’re eager to learn more about the details. Specifically, how will the payroll tax be phased in for small businesses that aren’t currently offering a healthcare benefit to their employees? And, given that currently the average employee premium contribution covers about 80% of the cost, we would have serious concerns about any plan that shifted that balance too quickly, hurting working Vermonters. Any eventual cost shift needs to allow time for the benefits of universal healthcare and the cost savings we will see from improved health outcomes to flow to everyone.
These will be important details to clarify and to work on with the legislature once the administration’s proposal is released and no matter what the standard payroll tax rate ends up being.
Just as important as the balance of the financing plan is the coverage it provides. As founding members of Main Street Alliance, we support a plan that restores Vermonters to at least the coverage that was available under our Catamount Health Plan and Dr. Dynasaur and that includes dental and vision. We should not roll back the progress that Vermont has already made on this point and we support those who are calling for a higher Actuarial Value -– the better the policy, the better it is for Vermont.
As small business owners in Vermont, we're excited about the opportunity to stay engaged in this process. We are looking forward to the release of the Administration’s full plan later this month and to working with the legislature next year. We know that in the long run and done right, universal healthcare will save everybody money. When everybody saves money, they have more to circulate back into the local economy, and that's good for Vermont Main Street businesses and our employees.
This article was submitted by four of Main Street Alliance of Vermont's founding members: Wayne Nelson, L.N. Consulting in Winooski, Melinda Moulton, CEO of Main Street Landing in Burlington, Trudy Trombley, The Boutique at Stowe Mercantile and Truly Trudy’s Cosmetics in Stowe, and Eliza Cain, Red Hen Bakery in Middlesex
The Main Street Alliance is committed to elevating the voices of small business owners to advance public policies that are good for small businesses, our employees, and the communities we serve.
What Do Vermonters Think About Green Mountain Care?
Vermont’s unexpected election results have led to a lot of speculation among Vermonters and in the media. Many have asked whether this election should be interpreted as a reflection on Green Mountain Care, Vermont’s proposed universal, publicly financed, single payer health care system. My response to this is: Yes. The election results suggest we should move forward.
It’s no secret that the implementation of Vermont Health Connect, our execution of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) – sometimes called Obamacare, has been problematic and troubling to many people. The election is very likely, at least in part, a reflection of people’s dissatisfaction with the rollout of Vermont Health Connect. But that dissatisfaction does not include Act 48, the legislation that established our intent to enact Green Mountain Care, the first universal, publicly financed healthcare system in the country. On the contrary - the legislature, the administration, and the advocacy community should feel encouraged, if not compelled to redouble efforts to move forward with Act 48 and Green Mountain Care.
Moving forward with Green Mountain Care is our way and the best way to move beyond Vermont Health Connect and the ACA and actually improve healthcare. Specifically, implementing Green Mountain Care: a true universal, publicly financed healthcare system, promises to decouple healthcare from employment, decrease administrative overhead, lower cost to consumers, improve access to healthcare, and improve health outcomes.
Main Street Alliance has spent the past four months traveling around the state and speaking one-on-one with hundreds of small, main street business owners about some of the issues facing Vermont, including healthcare. In these conversations, we’ve learned that there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty about Vermont’s efforts to reform healthcare in the context of the existing and federally mandated Affordable Care Act.
There’s been a lot of healthcare reform lately – so much that keeping it all straight is a legitimate challenge. But one thing is clear to us based on hundreds of conversations: proponents of universal, publicly financed healthcare need to effectively communicate with Vermonters about the difference between the ACA and Green Mountain Care. Most importantly, we need to make it clear that Green Mountain Care will move us out of Vermont Health Connect and the ACA and into a system that will be much more akin to providing Catamount or Dr. Dynasaur for all Vermonters, that it will take private insurers out of the equation, decouple healthcare from employment, and be paid for through a progressive tax that will replace premiums. Green Mountain Care is a Vermont healthcare system that will include and cover all Vermonters just because they’re Vermonters.
In our conversations, we’ve found that the majority of small business owners (most of whom are not currently providing healthcare to their employees), are supportive of the idea of a universal, publicly financed healthcare system. Of course, they’re eager to see the financing plan and the benefits package, as we all are, to be able to assess the administration’s specific proposal. But the support for the concept – the support to apply for a waiver to the ACA and to move forward with a universal, VERMONT plan that takes private insurers out of the system - is resounding. As one small business owner from Windham county said: “I’d love to see healthcare come from the state; small businesses can’t afford to offer it.”
Please visit our website to see the list of businesses that have formed a working coalition to support moving forward with universal, publicly financed healthcare in a responsible way. A full report on Main Street Alliance of Vermont’s 2014 Small Business Policy Project will be released in December.
This article was written by Lindsay DesLauriers, State Director at Main Street Alliance of Vermont and resident of Huntington. It was originally published in VT Digger and subsequently in the Barre Montpelier Times Argus.
On June 12, the Main Street Alliance and the American Sustainable Business Council released the results of new scientific polling of small business owners views on retirement security. On the heels of a Pew study revealing dwindling retirement preparedness for most Americans, the new poll shows that small business owners see threats to business and the economy from the lack of retirement security.
The time is now for immigration reform. Small business owners and friends of small business are raising our voices to support common sense, comprehensive immigration reform that boosts small businesses and local economies.
Are you a small business owner? Click here to read and sign our small business principles for immigration reform.
Call your Senators and urge them to support common sense immigration reform with a path to citizenship. Here's a toll-free number (a recorded message will provide guidance, ask for your zip code, and connect you to your Senator's office): 1-888-891-3271.
Small business owner or friend of small business? Click here to share our "roadmap to citizenship" poster on Facebook.