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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Women and working family issues addressed in new State of Main Street report
Portland, OR - This morning, Main Street Alliance of Oregon leaders, Deborah Field, co-owner of Paperjam Press, and Sara Howe and Christy Cushing, co-owners of Howe Innovative Design, met with Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici to release the new survey report, State of Main Street. This report challenges conventional perceptions of small business owners’ thoughts on key policy issues. It details responding business owners’ views on key issues facing Oregon and the nation.Sara Howe, Christy Cushing, Deborah Field, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, Stephen Michael, and Sean Place. Photo credit: Kristin Rasmussen, Dist. Rep for Suzanne Bonamici (left to right)
Oregon small business owners are supportive of giving Oregon working families a fair shot—real opportunities to succeed and prosper with policies like basic standards for paid sick days as well as safe, secure, and effective retirement savings vehicles for small business owners and their employees. Women small business owners and business owners of color are particularly supportive of these policies. There is a clear call from the small business community that it’s time to rethink the “business as usual” agendas promoted by Big Business and special interest groups. We need to move towards understanding the whole picture of how our businesses interact with the communities we serve.
“Small businesses are a critical part of Oregon’s economy, especially in rural areas. Policies that support small businesses help create economic security and stability for working Oregonians. These policies include access to capital for those who want to start a new business, quality education, stable housing, and affordable health care,” Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici said. “When families earn a living wage, can take paid leave, and do not struggle to pay for child care, they are more likely to succeed and thrive. The Main Street Alliance report recognizes that these policies are good for small businesses because they lead to healthier families, a stronger local work force, increased consumer spending, and ultimately a stronger local economy.”
“As we continue to recover from this recession, I am committed to helping small businesses remain competitive in today’s market,” said Congressman Earl Blumenauer. “This report, issued by The Main Street Alliance of Oregon, clearly outlines some of the challenges that remain. While I’m concerned the benefits of our economic recovery aren’t being broadly felt, it’s encouraging to know Oregon’s small businesses feel as strongly as I do about the importance of affordable, quality healthcare, reforming our broken immigration system, and ensuring fair and equitable access to credit.”Sara Howe addresses Congresswoman Bonamici on issues impacting her small web, social media and marketing firm.
The Main Street Alliance of Oregon hopes lawmakers, the media and other decision makers will look closely at the results of this survey in planning public policy. We encourage them to listen and respond to the true voices of Main Street.
Living wage rally in Seattle at City Hall, April 2014. Credit Jason Collette.
On the day after Republicans in US Senate blocked a modest $10.10 minimum wage increase, small businesses in Seattle stand up for $15.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, May 1
CONTACT: Joshua Welter, (206) 383-1857, firstname.lastname@example.org
Seattle, WA – On the day after Republicans in the US Senate blocked a modest minimum wage increase to $10.10, Seattle small business owners with the Main Street Alliance proclaimed their support for a city level $15 minimum wage.
“It is smart and responsible to raise the minimum wage, boost our local economy, and support small business success at the same time,” said Joe Fugere, owner of Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria, who served on the Mayor’s Income Inequality Advisory Committee. “Main Street Alliance brought a strong small business voice to the process that sought common ground because we know our economy is built from the bottom up, not the top down. We recognize that our local economy is stronger when low and middle class families have greater economic security and more money to spend, and it’s good to provide small businesses time to reap the benefits of increasing consumer demand while transitioning to a $15 wage.”
“You know something’s wrong in Congress when Republicans insist on blocking a modest increase in the minimum wage,” said Molly Moon Neitzel, owner of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream. “Look what we’re doing in Seattle – leading the nation with a $15 minimum wage that will boost the local economy and help small businesses thrive. The economics are simple. I sell more ice cream when working families have more money in their pockets to spend.”
“I don't just have 48 employees, I have 48 families that are depending on me as a small business owner,” said Consuelo Gomez, owner of Marty K. “Raising the minimum wage is the right thing to do.”
The Main Street Alliance is a network of state and locally based small business coalitions. The Main Street Alliance and its state affiliates create opportunities for small business owners to speak for themselves on issues that impact their businesses and local economies.