Main Street Takes on Wall Street… and Wins

Big bank lobbyists have been putting on a full-court press in Washington, DC to roll back components of the financial overhaul passed last year and free Wall Street to go back to the "business as usual" that led to the financial crisis in 2008.

The bankers are gunning for the new Consumer Protection Bureau and attempting to block the confirmation of a director for the bureau. They're lobbying to starve regulatory agencies of the funds needed to enforce the provisions of the new law. And on the Senate floor on June 8, they went after small businesses with an amendment to delay (read, kill) new rules limiting debit swipe fees. But this time, the bankers lost.

The bank-backed amendment needed 60 votes to pass, and it fell six votes short on Wednesday (see the roll call of the vote – no party line vote here, unless you draw the lines of a new "Party of Wall Street"). This vote was a big win for small businesses, stopping big banks and the card company duopoly from walking away with an extra $1 billion a month in exorbitant swipe fees.

Leaders in the Main Street Alliance led the charge of small businesses fighting back against the banks' lobbying onslaught. While the inside-the-beltway small business lobbies (like the NFIB) sat on the sidelines, MSA business owners made calls, signed letters, and organized their business contacts to make their voices heard.

Mike Craighill, owner of the Soup and Such restaurants in Billings, Montana wrote an op-ed in The Hill on June 9 recapping the victory. Mike wrote:

As the owner of two family restaurants that cater to a daytime business clientele, I know a thing or two about serving up a good lunch. And, in the run-up to Wednesday's Senate vote on the amendment to delay new rules limiting debit swipe fees, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that big banks were going to eat our lunch… again.

But, to my surprise and delight – and thanks in large part to small business owners from Maine to Iowa to Washington State who contacted their Senators and make their voices heard - Wall Street bankers didn't win this time. They didn't eat our lunch.

MSA leader Mary Noel Black, owner of The UPS Store at Citiplace in Baton Rouge, Louisiana had this to say reflecting on the significance of the vote:

The massive transfer of wealth from our local economies, from places like Greeley, Colorado and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to the Manhattan penthouses of bank executives has been slowed. This vote confirms that the new swipe fee limits will move forward, and small businesses will be freed from exorbitant interchange fees that have hindered our ability to grow and create jobs.

The Senate's vote also confirmed that it’s possible to stand up to the big banks and win… and that small businesses banding together and making their voices heard are a force to be reckoned with.

How Much Does Employee Turnover Really Cost Your Business?

Turnover is costly. Despite the harm it can cause to the bottom line, many businesses do not actually know how much turnover costs them. Policies that support workers, such as paid sick days, a fair minimum wage, investments in workforce training, and work sharing, can help decrease turnover and reduce these costs.

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) have developed a handy online turnover calculator to estimate how much turnover actually costs a business.

Click here to check out the CLASP/CEPR turnover calculator.

Small Business Owners Aren’t Buying the Anti-Regulatory Hype

The House of Representatives is expected to consider a bill shortly that would bring about a major overhaul of rule-making processes that set rules for the financial sector, public health and environmental standards, workplace healthy and safety, and other public safeguards.

The Regulatory Accountability Act (or RAA) is being promoted on the pretext of helping small businesses. But real small business owners aren’t buying the anti-regulatory hype. Indeed, in poll after poll and interview after interview, small business owners say what they need to grow and create jobs is more customers, not deregulation.

We asked leaders in the Main Street Alliance network to share their take on the Regulatory Accountability Act and the broader debate about cutting regulations in the name of small business. Here’s what some of them had to say:


Kelly Conklin co-owns Foley-Waite Associates, a custom woodworking business in Bloomfield, New Jersey:

“The Regulatory Accountability Act is just the next example of attempting to shift risk and shift costs from big businesses to small businesses. This bill would gut rules and standards that protect small businesses, the communities where we live and work, and the customers we rely on for our livelihoods.

“I’d like to know, how will rolling back financial standards and allowing another financial crisis help small businesses? How will rolling back environmental rules and allowing another BP spill help small businesses? To hear these proposals being marketed in the name of helping small businesses, it’s just infuriating. This is small business identity theft – using our good name to push an agenda that benefits narrow special interests at our expense.

“Once again the political ambitions of a few are being placed above economic recovery, environmental common sense and the health and safety of small business owners, our employees, and the communities we serve.”


Jim Houser owns Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland, Oregon:

“These attacks on basic regulatory standards are misguided at best. They completely miss – or ignore – the fact that standards and regulations create jobs and support innovation.

“Just look at my industry, auto repair. In our sector, smart, focused automobile emission standards protect the air we breathe, provide needed employment for the nation’s repair technicians who keep our vehicles running clean, and promote innovations that help U.S. companies be on the cutting edge of new automotive technologies.”


Garry Ault owns All Makes Vacuum in Boise, Idaho:

“I’ve been trying to sell my small business and retire for over a year. I had to cut the selling price back to the point where I would make only $1,500 more than I paid for my business in 1980. Why? Because of the policies of the last 20 years that deregulated our financial sector, encouraged reckless gambling on Wall Street, and precipitated the 2008 financial crisis and this Second Great Depression small businesses are struggling to pull through today.

“Deregulation is a scam – it helps the big guys at the little guy’s expense. Our politicians have got to know that by now, and if they do then there’s just no excuse for pushing this agenda that’s going to hurt small businesses even more.”


Melanie Collins owns Melanie’s Home Childcare in Falmouth, Maine:

“Deregulation that helps narrow, big business interests – like banks, insurers, and oil companies – has the reverse effect on small businesses, who are the majority of our job creators. Compromising environmental protections and the ability to maintain healthy communities with a healthy customer base is counterproductive to small business job creation and an economically vibrant future.

“What small businesses need are customers – Americans with spending money in their pockets – not deregulation that gives big corporations free reign to cut corners, use their market power at our expense, and force even more small businesses to lay people off and close up shop.”

November 10: Small Business Owners Demand Banks, Health Insurers, Oil Companies Come Clean on Dark Money

Small Business Owners to Banks, Insurers, Energy Companies: “How Are You Spending Our Money?”

Washington, DC—Small business owners in the Main Street Alliance network launched the “Business Against Dark Money” campaign today, calling on banks, health insurers, and oil companies to fully disclose their “dark money” spending – dues and contributions to trade associations and other third parties that can then be used for political purposes, often to advance big business interests at the expense of small businesses, without disclosure of the original source. 

Click here to view the full press release

Click below for letters sent to national banks, health insurers, energy companies, and their trade groups (state level letters are available upon request; email




National Bank Transfer Day

Business and individuals are fed up with high bank fees and the role large banks played in the financial collapse.  You can join them on Nov 5th by closing your account at a big bank and moving it to a community bank or credit union.

Since the financial collapse the "too big to fail" banks have only gotten bigger, risking our economy further.  Main Street Alliance members fought back against high interchange fees only to see them shifted to consumers.  Small business lending has slowed to a trickle and foreclosures continue to strip wealth from homeowners and devastate communities.

Our partners at New Bottom Line have created a website to help people navigate the process of closing accounts at the big banks and finding a community bank or credit union.  There is a page you can use to track how much money has been moved out of the big banks.


November 1: Small Businesses to Supercomm: Tax Reform Should Restore Lost Revenue, Not Reward Tax Dodgers

Click here to read the joint press release from the Main Street Alliance, Business for Shared Prosperity and the American Sustainable Business Council.

Click here to read the joint business letter to the Congressional Supercommittee.

See related quotes from Main Street Alliance leaders:

“Let me get this straight – the same corporate players that routinely use their market power to steamroll over small businesses are now asking us to foot the bill for their tax holidays?” said Aimee McQuilkin, owner of Betty’s Divine in Missoula, MT, referring to a push by the “WIN America Campaign” for a temporary or even permanent tax holiday for the return of off-shored profits. McQuilkin serves on the steering committee of the Montana Small Business Alliance, affiliated with the national Main Street Alliance network. “Enough is enough,” she added. “If you want to fly the American flag outside your corporate headquarters, you should be paying your way.”

“At a time of unprecedented long-term unemployment, a glaring need for investment in our crumbling infrastructure and an educated workforce, and a realization that some of our largest banks and Fortune 500 companies are sitting on trillions of dollars – unwilling or unable to invest and hire American workers – our government has a responsibility to raise the revenues necessary to assure our economic recovery,” said Jim Houser, owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland, Oregon and co-chair of the Main Street Alliance of Oregon. “There’s no excuse for delay now, given the length and depth of our current economic crisis.”

Small Business Owners Bring Main Street Voices to Washington, DC

On October 20, an all-star team of small business leaders from across the Main Street Alliance network made the trek to Washington, DC to represent the voice of Main Street small businesses in the nation’s capital.

Business owners came from Montana, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington to participate in meetings on Capitol Hill. In a day and a half, the team conducted close to 20 meetings with Senate and House offices, including three face to face meetings with U.S. Senators.

The group held wide-ranging conversations with congressional offices, covering topics including job creation and regulations, revenues and investment, health care, immigration reform, and fixing the housing market.

Some Hill staffers acknowledged that it was helpful – and refreshing – to hear from real small business owners back in their home states and districts, and to hear business owners with a different perspective on topics like taxes and regulations than you hear from the inside-the-beltway business lobbies. Mission accomplished!

Here’s a quick taste of some of the issues the group discussed in meetings on Capitol Hill:

Job Creation & Anti-Regulatory Attacks
Despite all the rhetoric in DC about “regulations,” what small businesses need is customers – demand – not deregulation. The focus on rolling back regulations is counterproductive in two ways. First, it distracts from the real issue, which is rebuilding the small business customer base. Second, the rules and standards that are under threat of being rolled back (financial reform, clean air, health insurance market reforms) are ones that protect small businesses and the communities they rely on from mistreatment by big corporate interests. Rolling back these standards and rules would only shift more risk and more costs onto the shoulders of small businesses.
See MSA’s 10 “dos and don’ts” for job creation

Revenues and Taxes
On revenues and taxes, Main Street Alliance small business owners stand squarely in support of efforts to raise revenues by closing corporate tax loopholes, ending the abuse of off-shore tax havens, and generally ensuring that large corporations and the wealthy are paying their dues. As MSA Executive Committee member Kelly Conklin puts it, “If you want to fly the American flag outside your corporate headquarters, you should be paying your way.” Raising revenues in these ways would generate resources for important investments in infrastructure and job creation, and it would level the playing field for small businesses (who don’t have access to things like off-shore tax havens) at the same time.

At the same time, MSA small business owners are strongly opposed to the push for a repatriation “tax holiday” for large multinational companies, or to giving big corporations a permanent tax holiday – and permanent incentive to off-shore jobs and profits – through what’s called a “territorial” tax system.
See the recent coalition letter MSA signed onto about tax reform

Health Care
On health care, the MSA delegation discussed important advances in health care reform, and highlighted opportunities to continue building on health reform to maximize the benefits for small businesses.

Immigration Reform
The MSA delegation in DC also discussed the importance of a comprehensive approach to immigration reform for businesses, workers, and the economy. Enforcement-only policies like the mandatory E-Verify proposal currently in the House of Representatives would be bad for small businesses, bad for the workforce, and bad for the country’s bottom line.
See MSA’s fact sheet about the dangers of mandatory E-Verify

Fixing the Housing Market
On the importance of dealing with the mortgage crisis to create the space for consumer demand to bounce back and help drive the economic recovery, MSA’s small business owners believe more needs to be done. A newly announced program that may allow 1 to 2 million homeowners to refinance is a positive step, but with an estimated 11 million homeowners underwater in their homes, Congress and the Administration should advance proposals for mortgage modification and refinancing on a much larger scale to truly get at the problem of stifled consumer demand.

October 25: Pushing Deregulation in Name of Small Business is "Identity Theft"

Click here for a formatted copy of this press release.


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