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.
Being a small business owner for 25 years has taught Deborah to value her employees and paying them a livable wage is the best thing she can do to support that effort. Deborah noted a 60% increase in sales resulting from increased productivity in her shop after implementing a $15.00/hr starting wage for her employees. Main Street Alliance members know that Raising The Wage helps small business and puts more money back into our communities.
Working Families Champions of Change event highlights importance of paid sick days and paid family leave policies
Washington, D.C. – The White House today honors Randy George, as part of its Working Families Champions of Change event. George was recognized for his work to improve the lives of working families in Vermont.
“Our 42 employees are at the core of everything we do – the heart of Red Hen.” George said, “That is why my wife Liza and I insist on providing paid sick days, an equal and livable wage, health coverage, and other benefits that help everyone balance the work they love with the life they lead. Through these workplace policies, we know we’re making our employees more secure, our bakery more productive, and our business more profitable.”
“Through our work in past years to establish a standard of earned paid leave in Vermont, several business owners have stepped forward and stood out as models of great employers and none so much Randy and Liza,” said Lindsay DesLauriers, VT State Director of Main Street Alliance. “Every time I buy a Red Hen baguette, I know that it’s not just about a great product or even about supporting a local business – I know that I’m investing in the kind of Vermont I want to live and work in.”
“Randy George is a true leader in the fight for paid sick days and paid family policies and has taken great strides to move these policies forward in Vermont,” said Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work. “We’re proud of Randy for this well-deserved honor, paving the way for national standards, until no one has to choose between providing and caring for their families.”
In Vermont, H. 187, the Healthy Workplaces Bill, is currently being debated in the General, Housing and Military Affairs. The bill is expected to be voted out of committee this week, and come to the floor next week. The bill establishes a minimum standard of access of three earned sick days for the first two years after implementation, and then increases to five.
These wins come on the heels of President Obama’s call in the State of the Union address for the U.S. to catch up with the 21st century and other world leaders on paid leave. These issues are also being addressed by presidential hopefuls as the 2016 campaigns get underway.
Tune in live TODAY at 12:15!
Family Values @ Work is a network of coalitions in 21 states, including Main Street Alliance of Vermont, working to pass policies that value families at work such as paid sick days and affordable family leave.
The Main Street Alliance of Vermont is an organization 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.
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.
The auditorium was packed with over 1500 residents of Volusia and neighboring counties to discuss three key issues the group plans to work on in 2015. County and City level law enforcement were in attendance to hear a plan to increase use of civil citations in response to non-violent crimes to spare first time offenders the lifelong burden of a criminal conviction, a plea was made to Volusia County officials to secure funding for a homeless shelter, and Daytona Beach City Commissioners were urged to vote in favor of ‘Ban the box’ legislation.
Alliance leader Paul Heroux was asked to give testimony before members of the City Commission and guests in attendance to share his position on ‘ban the box’ as a small business owner who was previously incarcerated. Paul gave a passionate speech, telling the audience that he started his own business because he was the only one who wouldn’t judge him based on how he answered the question on his applications.
Paul explained, “Checking that box takes away your identity. You are unable to explain who you are, and what you can bring to the company before you are deemed unfit for the position. Everyone has an idea in their head of who a felon is or what they look like, and it probably doesn’t look like me. Ban the box is a chance for my face to replace the movie gangster the hiring manager pictured when they saw I checked yes.”
All 4 of the Commissioners in attendance agreed to meet with members of the ‘ban the box’ coalition in the next 30 days to discuss the legislation before it is brought to a vote next month. Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry took is a step further and said, “I whole heartedly believe that banning the box is good for our city and I will vote yes on the measure.”
Main Street leaders will remain engaged in the debate throughout the process and will continue to set an example for private employers who have not yet adopted fair hiring practices. In addition to the work being done in Daytona Beach legislation is being prepared for the Orlando City Commission, and Main Street Florida is among the first organizations to join the fight for fair hiring in Orlando.
Curious about the current state of healthcare in Vermont? You’re not alone.Our Main Street Alliance team has been reaching out to business owners across the state to hear their thoughts on the healthcare system in Vermont. We’ve heard that business owners are engaged and interested in the state of healthcare in Vermont, but find it difficult to keep up with the evolving landscape.
We are happy to invite you to our attend one of our Health Care Policy Forums. Please join us for a presentation and discussion that includes the current state of healthcare, the history and progression of universal healthcare in Vermont, information about the current proposals in the legislature, and what lies ahead.
Please see the full schedule below and contact Ashley at [email protected] or 802-380-0667 with questions or to RSVP. Prior registration appreciated, but not required.
Windsor County Forum Thursday, 3/19 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm The Norwich Public Library
Washington County Forum Tuesday, 3/24 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm The Kellogg Hubbard Library in Montpelier: Haze Room
Chittenden County Forum Tuesday, 4/14 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm The Gallery at Main Street Landing in Burlington
Franklin County Forum Thursday, 4/16 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm St. Albans Free Library
Lamoille County Forum Tuesday 4/21 from 5:15pm – 7:15pm Morristown Centennial Library
And Stay Tuned - STILL TO BE SCHEDULED:
Addison County Forum
Bennington County Forum
Caledonia County Forum
Rutland County Forum
Windham County Forum
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.