Main Street Alliance leaders from around the country joined together to think BIG about the kind of world we want to live in
The Main Street Alliance National Board members: David Borris, Owner, Hel’s Kitchen Catering
Northbrook, Illinois; Melanie Collins, Owner, Melanie’s Home Childcare, Falmouth, Maine; ReShonda Young, Operations Manager, Alpha Express, Inc, Waterloo, Iowa; Kelly Conklin, Owner, Foley-Waite Associates, Bloomfield, New Jersey; & Jim Houser, Co-Owner, Hawthorne Auto Clinic, Portland, Oregon, along with National Staff met up at the Rancho Gallina Eco Retreat in *sunny* Santa Fe, New Mexico last weekend to think strategically about the future of The Main Street Alliance.
Our lovely hosts, Mitch Ackerman and Leslie Moody, have overseen the Rancho Gallina’s historic preservation and 21st century environmental upgrades. The facility is now 100% solar-powered, with both high- and low-tech water and energy conservation, from geothermal heating/cooling to composting and xeriscaping to preserve our desert landscape.
Working together as a team, the Main Street Alliance National Board began to develop the framework for how to create a small business economy, full of community involvement and support. We’re continuing to explore how to create more economy investing businesses, while limiting the extractors out there.
We all loved being able to escape the winter in Santa Fe, and will certainly be back to the Rancho Gallina in the future!
Montpelier, VT – Thursday morning, February 5th, supporters gathered in the State House to endorse the new Healthy Workplaces legislation that will be introduced to the House by Representative Tristan Toleno. The bill is a revitalized response to previous Earned Sick Days proposals, including S.15 introduced in the Senate earlier this year. Notably, Senate sponsor Philip Baruth and several other Senators stood with Representative Toleno in support of this new bill.
Rep. Toleno said, “I am very proud to have helped to craft a fresh start to this effort. This is a new common ground and common sense proposal that addresses the fundamental concerns of my fellow small business owners while also accomplishing three important objectives for all Vermonters.”
Toleno outlined the following three points:
- This bill will establish a general standard of paid leave that all people may earn. It is still true that if an employer wants to provide only sick leave, they may: that is at the employers' choice.
- The bill establishes a 500 hour waiting period before new employees have access to the benefit, the equivalent of three months of full time work.
- This new approach both phases in and reduces the paid leave standard. Employees will be able to earn and access up to three days per year for the first two years of the law. After two years, employees may earn and access up to five days per year.
Caleb Magoon, owner of Power Play sports, a small sporting goods retail store in Morrisville, offered his support. “Last year, I was unable to support the Earned Sick Days bill,” Magoon explained. “But I’m here today to support and endorse this new Healthy Workplaces Bill.” Referencing an extensive business engagement process in which Magoon participated, he said, “I could not support a bill that didn’t provide a waiting period before paid leave would be available to a new worker. This new bill addresses that. It also establishes a gradual phase in while still ensuring that workers can manage routine day to day health needs. The minimum standard is low enough that it won't prevent employers who wish to use more generous policies to recruit and retain employees. It strikes a balance that I can stand behind.”
Senator Philip Baruth wrapped up the discussion by emphasizing the human impact of this legislation. “Currently around 60,000 Vermonters don’t have access to any earned time whatsoever. These Vermonters are single mothers, minimum wage earners, and people working hard to support their families. These days, both adults in most households have to work, and everyone pitches in to manage the health and safety of their families.”
Baruth concluded his remarks with a call to urgency. “We have already held two hearing in the Senate on this important issue, and I am excited to see the House begin work on a companion bill. I urge the House to pass this bill. For many hardworking Vermonters, waiting another year is just not an option.”
Business owners from the communities voiced there concerns about the looming retirement security crisis. Today, nearly half of all Oregonians do not have a retirement plan at work. As a result, many are at risk of living in poverty when they retire – unable to cover basic living and medical expenses. This not only means that more Americans will need to rely on social services, but also that those with little or no retirement savings won’t have the resources to keep shopping in their local small businesses.
The Main Street Alliance of Oregon is a part of the Save Today, Secure Tomorrow coalition, together we’ve found that:
- More than 70 million American workers do not have an employer-sponsored retirement plan.
- 79% of working Oregonians support a state-run retirement savings plan to help the thousands of workers who don’t have access to a retirement savings program at work.
- The Bureau of Labor Statics estimates that at least 10 percent of Americans age 75 or older will be working or seeking employment by 2018.
- Less than half of African American, Latino and low-income workers have access to a retirement plan at their job.
- Over half of women age 75 or older live alone; almost half of those are living at or near the federal poverty line.
In September 2014, the Task Force unanimously recommended a structure for a state-sponsored retirement plan. After reviewing extensive research of best practices from academic and financial industry experts, the Task Force recommended that Oregon’s savings program include the following key elements:
- Easy for employers to implement - savings contributions will be automatically deducted from existing payroll and employers will not be required to make a contribution
- Includes auto-enrollment – 87 percent of individuals working for companies with auto-enrollment actively participate in the programs
- Portable for individuals – the plan will follow Oregonians from job to job throughout their career.
- Limits the state’s exposure to risk – as directed by the legislature, the plan will not incur any liability for the state.
By giving every working Oregonian an easy way to save for retirement, we can help every Oregonian provide security for themselves, their families, and our community. It’s time to put Oregonians back in charge of their financial future.
It is critical that we find solutions to this problem—when more Americans are financially stable in their retirement, they keep spending money in local businesses, keeping money circulating through our communities. Additionally, when more families are secure in their own retirement, there’s less need for social safety nets, ensuring that those who really need the support have it to count on.
This ruling came as no surprise to local community pharmacy owners who have been dealing with low Medicaid reimbursements for years and have been losing money by providing services to Medicaid patients.
Carmen Cintron, owner of the South Orange Pharmacy in Orlando said, “Medicaid has been underpaying for prescription drugs for as long as I have been in business. I try to make sure that my Medicaid patients pay the same amount out of pocket for their drugs as privately insured patients, and often that means I take a loss.”
Medication costs are always on the rise, and local pharmacy owners have seen the greatest increases in the cost of generic drugs. Generics used to be a way that low income folks could afford prescription drugs, but now local pharmacies are even losing money on generic medications.
“Medicaid takes 3-6 months to update their reimbursement rates, while prescription costs rise on a weekly basis. A drug that is profitable for me to dispense one week may lose me money the next week,” said Al Sheikh, owner of Good Homes Pharmacy in Ocoee. “I have a patient whose medication costs me $305 a month, but their Medicaid coverage only reimburses $281. Every time they fill that prescription I lose about $25. I’ve tried passing that cost on to the patient, but they just can’t afford it.”
While business owners and community members across Florida are ready for the state to accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid it is clear that in addition to adding more folks to the coverage plan the state must address low reimbursements that are causing children, families, and small businesses to suffer.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Main Street Alliance of Vermont Disappointed at the Slow Down of Universal Healthcare.
Main Street Alliance of Vermont was disappointed to hear that the Governor will not recommend a financing plan for Green Mountain Care to the legislature this year. We are disappointed about the delay and disappointed that the opportunity for stakeholder involvement wasn’t more ubiquitous sooner. We continue to want to move forward to find a plan for universal healthcare that could work and regret that the opportunity to participate in finding a timely solution to the financing challenge as it was presented on Wednesday has been withheld.
We agree and understand that the economy is struggling and we believe that universal healthcare decoupled from employment is an essential ingredient to the success of Vermont’s economy and to supporting small businesses and their employees. We know that in the long run, a truly universal healthcare system, done right, will save Vermont money.
Our current healthcare system continues to be unsustainable and unaffordable for small businesses and for Vermont. Private insurance companies continue to earn large profits while Vermonters struggle to pay for healthcare. Many of Vermont’s small businesses are still unable to afford the high cost of providing health insurance to their employees, and many therefore don’t have access the care they need. The problems we set out to solve remain.
We are closer than we’ve ever been before thanks to all the work that has been done in Vermont to date. The small business owners with whom we work want the opportunity to work with the legislature and the administration to help find solutions to the challenges that the Governor identified and to keep Vermont moving forward this year in every practical and possible way toward the goal of universal healthcare in our state.
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.
Founding Board 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
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.
Senator Jeff Merkley & Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish join Main Street Alliance & Little Boxes Businesses to promote shopping on Main Street this holiday season
Portland, OR - Senator Jeff Merkley (OR) and Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish walked Main Streets in St Johns and NW Portland earlier today talking to small business owners participating in this year’s Little Boxes PDX campaign. Little Boxes PDX was dreamt up just before Thanksgiving in 2011 by jewelry designer and small business owner, Betsy Cross, of betsy & iya. Working with her husband and business partner, Will Cervarich, the vision became a reality that first year with 90 shops participating and thousands of participating shoppers across Portland. Since then, Little Boxes PDX has grown every year.
This year, more than 200 small business owners from all around Portland joined the campaign, offering discounts, donating prizes and helping to support each other throughout the holidays. The spirit of community drives Little Boxes each year, and shoppers who patron their local Main Street businesses experience the things that make small, locally-owned businesses so great—personal customer attention and unique goods and services.Devon, co-owner of hammer + vine; Senator Jeff Merkley; Commissioner Nick Fish
Leaders with The Main Street Alliance of Oregon were pleased to work with Commissioner Fish and Senator Merkley to promote shopping on Main Street this holiday season. Commissioner Fish visited businesses in St Johns. We then met up with Senator Merkley in Goose Hallow at Hammer + Vine, and on to the Alphabet District to Clogs N More, Manor Fine Wares and ended up at Child’s Play Toys.
It’s so important to get the word out about supporting Main Streets across America, that way our customer’s hard earned money can stay where it belongs—in the local community. We’re certainly not alone in promoting shopping at small businesses during the holidays, though.Pat, owner Child's Play Toys; Senator Jeff Merkley; Betsy Cross, co-owner of betsy & iya and co-founder of Little Boxes PDX
Along with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, comes Small Business Saturday, a marketing campaign created by American Express. On the surface, it sounds like a good thing. After all, small businesses are the engines of job growth, and shopping small keeps money circulating in the local economy. Every Saturday should be Small Business Saturday.
But, for small business owners, American Express’ marketing campaign is a slap in the face, allowing the Wall Street titan to hitch its PR wagon to the iconic Main Street brand while generating enormous profits on swipe fees from billions in sales, paid for by small businesses and our customers. American Express charges merchants the highest swipe fees – around 3.5% of each transaction – of any credit card company. In addition to charging hefty swipe fees, AmEx typically takes twice as long to settle transactions with merchants as Visa and MasterCard, which can hurt the cash flow of a small business. The dirty secret of credit card rewards programs is that they are paid for by the small business who swipes your card.
After all is said and done, though, there are some great ways to support your local small businesses this holiday. Consumers who want to Shop Main Street this holiday season can:
- Shop in a locally owned business, that way your hard-earned money stays in your community and supports businesses who support their employees and their communities.
- Pay in cash or use a debit card.
This holiday season, remember, shop in small Main Street businesses—support the businesses who support you!
Years of Courage and Persistence Pay Off in Huge Step Forward for Immigration Reform
Millions of immigrant families are celebrating the historic breakthrough on immigration that will provide the opportunity for many to remain in the U.S. and continue to contribute to America.
President Obama’s executive order means that for now nearly half of the undocumented immigrants living in America will no longer be afraid they will be deported. The other half’s fears should also lessen because new reforms should begin to reign in over-zealous enforcement agencies.
“This is a major victory for the immigrant rights movement in American and for the millions of immigrants who stood up and were unafraid. It’s a long overdue step toward justice,” said Stephen Michael, Campaigns Manager of The Main Street Alliance.Makini Howell, owner and Executive Chef of Plum Bistro, Seattle, WA
Across the country The Main Street Alliance has been working tirelessly with the small business community to fight for fair and just reform to fix our nation’s broken immigration system, keep our families together and our small businesses thriving.
Makini Howell, owner of Plum Bistro in Seattle, WA appeared on the Nightly Business Report last night, joining together with those who called on President Obama to take bold action in September, Main Street Alliance business owners from all across the country support the President, showing that administrative action to protect immigrants makes business sense.
“As a small business owner, I see the positive impact immigrants have on our economy,” said Jose Gonzalez, President of Tu Casa Real Estate in Salem, OR. “Many of my customers are immigrants, and it makes me so happy to know that this year, millions more families across the country will be able to celebrate Thanksgiving and the holiday season without fear that the broken immigration system will tear families and communities apart.”Jim Gilbert, owner of Northwoods Nursery & One Green World in Molalla & Portland, OR and Jose Gonzalez, President of TU Casa Real Estate in Salem, OR
Because the deferred action program announced by President Obama does not cover all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and the action is not permanent, Michael vowed to keep fighting for comprehensive immigration reform.
“Our fight is not over until everyone has a path to citizenship and no one lives in fear that their family will be separated. After all, when our families and communities are strong, our small businesses thrive,” Stephen Michael said.
Small business owners and families celebrated President Obama’s executive order, but added words of caution for anyone who attempts to reverse this action, including congressional Republicans.
“Countless families have been torn apart because of our patchwork of failed and mismanaged immigration policies. We will never allow that to happen again and will stand up to those who put politics ahead of families,” said said Jim Gilbert, Owner of Northwoods Nursery and One Green World in Molalla and Portland, OR. “To those who would try to take this victory away, who would tell immigrant families they are not welcome, you are on the wrong side of history. Our communities, families, and small businesses need this to help strengthen our economy.”
“Today, America is living up to its promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” said Peter Tofalvi, owner of Abacus Energy Solutions in Beaverton, OR. “Today, millions of families will now be able to pursue the American Dream.”
Historic practices and policies perpetuate poverty pay in jobs typically worked by women and people of color
Seattle, WA - During this season of abundance, many full-time workers don’t earn enough for a single person to survive, much less to support a family. The staggeringly low percentage of women and people of color earning a living wage in the US is especially distressing.
“Equity in the Balance,” a new report by The Alliance for a Just Society, was released today by The Main Street Alliance. The report details just how few women and people of color in the US make a living wage – enough income to cover basic expenses of a full time worker and their family, with some money left over for savings.
Only 61% of all full-time workers in the US earn a wage that will allow them to make ends meet. Even more troubling, only 57% of women, and just 52% of the latino community make this living wage.
“It is a fundamental American value, if you work full-time you should be able to support yourself and your family,” said Stephen Michael, Campaigns Manager of The Main Street Alliance. “Small business owners agree that if you’re working full-time, you shouldn't be living in poverty. We know that when our employees are earning more, they have more to spend in our local businesses, which boosts our entire economy."
For more than 200 years, policies and practices in the U.S. have perpetuated low wages in jobs and industries primarily worked by women and people of color. Women of color particularly struggle, making difficult choices to provide for their children.
“A system that unjustly and persistently leaves people of color overrepresented in low wage work is tantamount to economic racism,” said Jill Reese, associate director for Alliance for a Just Society. “And, policies that keep women over-represented among low-wage workers is gender discrimination.”
It’s time that lawmakers change history, raise the minimum wage and ensure that all have access to paid sick days to assure that all full time work pays enough for a family to do more than barely survive – that workers earn an actual living wage that helps families thrive.
- Invest in state and federal safety net programs, such as childcare assistance. Until there are enough living wage jobs to go around for all household types, families will continue to face tough choices.
- Strengthen and enforce equal opportunity statutes, including affirmative action: Equal opportunity statutes were designed to help ensure that women and people of color are not discriminated against. However, enforcement of these policies isn’t consistent, leaving the statutes weak and ineffective.
- Guarantee paid leave that includes maternity leave and parental leave to care for sick children. Many workers risk losing their jobs or income, if they are too sick to come to work or if they need to care for a sick child
- Expand and Strengthen Social Security: Because women and people of color earn less, they are less able to save for retirement and forced to depend solely on Social Security.
“Equity in the Balance” is the second in the 2014 Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series. Alliance for a Just Society has produced a Job Gap Study on jobs and wages since 1999.
Data from the Alliance’s Job Gap Study has figured prominently in debates on minimum wage, paid sick days, payday lending, Medicaid and other family economic issues.