Small business owners shun lobbyists, call for “high-road” workplace standards

January 30, 2012 | Aaron Keating

Jamie Vaughn, owner of Revival Lighting in Spokane

Business experience, academic research and political muscle are backing calls by small business owners for “high road” business and economic development policies – and policymakers are listening.

The recent campaign for paid sick days in Seattle featured local business leaders like Dave Meinert, Makini Howell and Jody Hall. And they didn’t just support the idea – they helped craft the proposal that eventually became law. As Howell put it in an open letter to business owners:

“Not only can paid sick days work for my business, I believe it is exactly the type of public policy that makes our community stronger. Ultimately, strong businesses need strong communities to thrive.”

Before you write that off as the “Seattle liberal establishment” at work, take a look at this article from the Spokane Inlander about Revival Lighting owner Janine Vaughn, who:

showed up as a simple small business owner in Inlander stories about income-tax Initiative 1098 (arguing it would save her small business money) and workers-comp insurance-privatization Initiative 1082 (arguing it would cost her small business money).

Vaughn is a member of the small business lobbying group Main Street Alliance, which initially formed to support the small-business friendly aspects of proposed national health care reform legislation.

The Main Street Alliance, Vaughn explains, is made up of mostly smaller businesses. That’s why they tend to stand in such stark contrast to traditional business lobbying groups – and the Republican agenda.

That kind of contrast gets noticed. The White House has been in touch to get the Alliance’s views on public policy issues that affect small businesses and their employees:

“It’s actually very surprising,” Vaughn says about her sudden ubiquity in the press. “They’re actually listening to the small business voice. It’s exciting.”

Academic research backs up these business owners’ experience with “high road” economic development policies like a strong minimum wage, paid sick days, and paid family leave.

  • The latest research by economists comparing counties that share borders across state lines has found that increasing the minimum wage not only increases the incomes of low wage workers, it does so without decreasing the number of jobs. And it benefits employers by decreasing costly turnover.
  • Since New Jersey’s paid family leave policy was implemented in 2009, and researchers at Rutgers have found paid leave is not only good for families, it’s better for businesses and leads to reduced use of public assistance.
  • A study in the American Journal of Public Health demonstrates how a lack of workplace policies such as paid sick leave contributes significantly to illness among Hispanics — and thus the general population.

This is a welcome and exciting trend – one that bodes well for Washington’s (and America’s) businesses, families and communities as we strive to restore the promise of the middle class and build an economy that works for everyone in the years to come.

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Posted in Family Leave Insurance, Minimum Wage, Paid Sick Days, Work & Family

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