The Main Street Alliance of Oregon held a briefing to update members on the proposal to create a state bank in Oregon. This briefing provided a brief summary of what the bill would do for small business owners as well as providing a short glimpse into the short 2012 session.
Ahead of a scheduled mark-up of H.R. 2885, a proposal that would mandate the use of the controversial E-Verify employment verification system by every employer in the country, Main Street Alliance leader David Borris, owner of Hel's Kitchen Catering in Northbrook, IL spoke at a press event outside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on September 14 opposing the plan.
David urged the Chamber and members of Congress to take a stand against E-verify. “The balance sheet on E-verify is simple: it’s bad for small business, bad for our workforce, and bad for the country's bottom line,” David said. “We urge the US Chamber and our members of Congress to hear our call, listen to small business, and oppose this flawed proposal.” Scroll down to read David's complete remarks.
Meanwhile, leaders in the Main Street Alliance network from Maine to Colorado to Oregon submitted a letter to the House Judiciary Committee outlining the job-killing impact a mandatory E-Verify regime would have on small businesses, their workforce, and the economy. Click here for a copy of the letter.
My name is David Borris. I own a business called Hel’s Kitchen Catering in Northbrook, Illinois. I also serve on the Executive Committee of the Main Street Alliance, a national network of small business owners committed to speaking for ourselves on the important issues facing our businesses and our local economies.
My wife and I opened our business as a small, homemade food store in Highland Park in 1985. Over the years, we’ve expanded into a full service catering company with 25 full time employees and another 80 part time and seasonal workers. Small businesses like ours are the backbone of local economies across the country. We create jobs, deliver important goods and services, drive local economies and give back to our communities.
I’m here today to urge the US Chamber of Commerce to take the blinders off and see what this E-Verify proposal would do to small businesses. To take the earplugs out and hear how mandatory E-Verify would harm small business owners all across America. To recognize that small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we need all the support the chamber and others can give to blaze the trail back to prosperity in our local communities.
We face many challenges: diminishing consumer demand, inability to provide quality, affordable health care to our employees, lack of access to capital -- all of these have conspired over the past 3 years to hold back the vibrant small business engine that should be fueling a strong recovery.
And while the Chamber has taken strident positions recently against new rules of the road that would actually help level the playing field for small business -- in health care, in the financial industry, in tax reform -- today they are inexplicably silent when Washington DC is talking about requiring every business owner in America to suit up as an immigration and customs enforcement agent.
Make no mistake, our immigration system is broken and that broken system is hurting small businesses, local economies, and the country. But as we’ve already heard today, taking the flawed E-Verify system and making it mandatory is not the solution.
Small businesses are doing everything we can to innovate, recreate, and delineate new roles in a rapidly changing business environment. All the while doing what we must to trim costs without laying off valued workers- many of whom are like family to us. Mandating E-Verify would create a whole new set of challenges for us.
The support of some in Congress for E-Verify exposes a blatant double standard. We’ve grown used to seeing some members of Congress use the good name of small business as a smokescreen to attack basic rules and standards. We’re talking about things like clean air rules that actually help small businesses by promoting a healthy workforce and cutting our health care costs.
Now, these same politicians are pushing for an E-Verify regime that – unlike those other rules they like to complain about – will actually have a direct negative impact on small businesses. This E-Verify proposal will be a good litmus test – it’s going to show us who’s serious about standing up for small business, and who only pays lip service to us when it’s convenient to advance the agenda of their big corporate donors.
The US Chamber claims to represent businesses large and small across the country. The Chamber has an obligation to listen to the small businesses - and speak out on our behalf. The problems of illegal immigration will not be dented one iota if e-verify is mandated - but small businesses across this great nation will suffer while struggling to comply.
The balance sheet for us on E-verify? It’s bad for small business, bad for our workforce, and bad for the country's bottom line. We need the US Chamber to hear our call, listen to small business, and withdraw its support for this flawed proposal.
We urge the Chamber to stop nibbling around the margins, stop accepting a piecemeal non-solution that will so negatively impact small business. We urge the Chamber to join the growing chorus of business owners and demand that our elected officials say no to E-Verify and find the courage to re-engage the debate on Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
The Obama Administration's recent announcement that it will not move forward with long-awaited evidence-based updates to smog standards is disappointing news for Main Street small businesses.
Clean air is a Main Street value. It always has been. And for good reason: cleaner air improves health and productivity, and reduces absenteeism and business health costs.
By the same token, the decision not to move forward with the new smog standards shifts the costs of lost work days and increased health care costs from smog-related illnesses (like asthma) onto small businesses. The proposed ozone standards would yield health benefits worth tens of billions of dollars annually by 2020, preventing or avoiding up to 12,000 premature deaths, 58,000 asthma attacks, 21,000 hospital and emergency room visits, and 420,000 lost work days.
Some groups that claim to represent the unified voice of the business community pit clean air against job creation. In their telling, we can have clean air or we can have jobs, but not both. In other words, jobs and a healthy economy can come only at the expense of healthy communities. Main Street small business owners recognize this as a false choice.
Healthy communities are integral to the success of America’s small businesses. While big corporations can dump pollution in a community and then close up shop and move somewhere else without their CEOs or shareholders ever having to breathe the local air, small businesses can't. Small business owners, their employees, and their customers all breathe the same air.
That's why clean air is a Main Street value. And that's why we'll keep fighting for standards that protect clean air, protect the public health, and protect local communities and local economies.
On August 22, the Missoula, Montana City Council voted 9-1 to place a measure on the city's November 2011 ballot challenging the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling that allows corporations to spend unlimited funds to influence elections. The resolution urges state and federal lawmakers to amend the Constitution to "clearly state that corporations are not human beings and do not have the same rights as citizens."
What's at stake for small businesses? The flood of corporate money into elections since Citizens United threatens to drown out small business voices on important issues. Overturning Citizens United would help level the playing field for small businesses.
Read more about the Missoula City Council resolution in this article in the Missoulian.
Changes are finally coming to states’ health insurance marketplaces. For small businesses, these changes can’t come soon enough. New rules prohibiting discrimination and strengthening oversight of rate increases will protect small businesses from rate shocks. A guaranteed essential benefits package will provide assurance of a minimum level of coverage. And new state insurance exchanges will enhance choice and competition.
But there’s one segment of many states’ insurance markets that is looking to dodge these new rules: association health plans (AHPs). AHPs are coordinated by membership associations – for example, state and regional chambers of commerce. Indeed, some state chambers are among the groups pushing to shield AHPs from having to play by the same rules as other health plans as the Affordable Care Act’s market reforms phase in.
But who really wins if association health plans are allowed to skirt market reforms and thumb their noses at the new rules?
Unregulated AHPs threaten the success of the new state insurance exchanges: by cherry-picking out the youngest and healthiest enrollees, they could stick an exchange with an older and more illness-prone population. That’s clearly not good for any small business participating in the exchange.
On the flip side, businesses getting their health coverage through AHPs won’t have the benefit of the ACA’s new protections – they’ll still be subject to rate discrimination, unreviewed rate hikes, and “thinsurance” (policies with such skimpy coverage they’re barely worth the paper they’re written on). It’s hard to describe that as “winning,” either.
The real winners from allowing AHPs to continue unregulated? The insurance companies (who get to keep doing business as usual, as if health care reform never happened) and the associations that make a regular income from marketing AHPs to their members.
The solution? That’s easy enough: make AHPs play by the same rules as any other health plan in the small group or individual market. Some groups that sell association plans to their members will undoubtedly lobby tooth and nail against this idea, but if they do they’re putting their own bottom line ahead of the best interests of the broader community – not to mention their own members.
The Main Street Alliance voted recently to officially endorse a new issue: paid sick days. Why do small business owners care about this issue? For a wide range of reasons - like workplace productivity, public health, and a commitment to treating workers like family. In short, it seems like the right thing to do... and it makes good business sense, too.
The productivity case alone is a strong one. According to the Center for Worklife Law, "presenteeism" (employees going to work even though they're sick) costs U.S. employers and the U.S. economy an estimated $180 billion a year in lost productivity. When workers don't have access to earned sick time, they're more likely to go to work sick, risk infecting co-workers (and potentially customers), get less done, and take longer to get back to 100 percent.
We'll be posting periodic updates about paid sick days in the weeks and months to come. In the meantime, if you're looking to learn more, check out this nifty infographic from medicalinsurance.org.
Brianne Harrington, owner of The Painted Pot in Helena and a leader with the Montana Small Business Alliance, had an op-ed printed in the Helena Independent-Record making the case for implementing the new value for premiums (medical loss ratio) requirement.
We won’t fix our broken health care system if we allow insurers to cook the books and go on doing business as usual. We need our health insurance companies to approach the premium value requirement as an opportunity to find ways to increase value and cost savings for their members, instead of trying to circumvent it.
Small business owners focus our best energies on providing good value to our customers every day. We deserve and expect nothing less from our health insurance companies.
Ground-level ozone - commonly known as "smog" - harms public health and worker productivity. Ozone reduces lung function, inflames airways and aggravates respiratory problems like asthma and lung disease. According to the EPA, strengthening ozone standards will annually prevent or avoid up to 58,000 asthma attacks, 21,000 hospital and ER visits, and 420,000 lost work days.
But efforts to strengthen these standards are under attack by major polluters using an old trick - hiding behind small business. The Main Street Alliance is inviting small business owners to sign a letter to the White House to demonstrate that you support clean air and strong ozone standards to protect community health and productivity.Please join us in signing on!