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Vermont Main Street Alliance Members Play Key Role in Paid Sick Days Senate Approval

Matt Birong, owner of 3 Squares Cafe in Vergennes

Matt Birong, owner of 3 Squares Cafe in Vergennes

The member businesses of the Main Street Alliance of Vermont achieved a tremendous victory this month that was over ten years in the making. The Vermont State Senate approved the Healthy Workplaces bill (H.187) with a strong bi-partisan vote of 21-8.

The approval came after several amendments were made by the Senate Committee on Economic Development that had jurisdiction of the bill and five successful floor amendments that received signals of support from the Economic Development Committee.

Key changes in the paid sick days legislation

included a one-year grace period for new businesses, an exclusion for part-time workers that work fewer than 18 hours per week, and one year delayed implementation for companies that employ five or fewer employees working 30 hours or more per week. The bill also excludes any persons under the age of 18.

Other floor amendments not supported by the committee met defeat, including an attempt to exempt businesses with five and fewer employees that failed by a single vote – providing universal adoption of the law to businesses of all sizes. Due to a narrow vote on this amendment the Senate reconvened to address this item specifically and for the second time in one week they voted to defeat the amendment.

The Main Street Alliance of Vermont members were vocal in opposition to any modification that would carve-out and exempt businesses for any purpose. If the exemption had passed, roughly 25,000 workers would not have the same protections as the rest of Vermont workers.

“We appreciate all the work that the Senate did on this bill – and feel that a reasonable compromise has been struck,” says Lindsay DesLauriers, state director of the Main Street Alliance of Vermont. “We were particularly pleased that the Senate did not adopt an exclusion by business size as we hear again and again from business owners around the state that a standard of earned leave should apply to all businesses equally.

“Paid leave should be a workplace standard like the minimum wage and this bill accomplishes that,” she said.

“This bill represents years of work and compromise to achieve a balanced bill. I’m pleased with the result and proud of the work that so many business owners on our coalitions did to ensure such a positive outcome,” said Stephanie Hainley, Main Street Alliance of Vermont board chair and COO at White + Burke Real Estate Investment Advisors.

“I think this bill is one of the best examples I’ve seen of really working hard to figure out how to find the right balance between employers and employees,” says Matt Birong, owner of 3 Squares Café in Vergennes. “I applaud all the work that has gone into this.”

Walmart’s Offshore Tax Havens Hurt Small Businesses That Support Communities

A recent report released by Americans for Tax Fairness exposed Walmart for their evasive tax practices and revealed that the retail giant is holding over 78 billion dollars in offshore subsidiaries. Our members were quick to speak out against these practices and took to the media to make their voices heard.

Matt Birong, owner of 3 Squares Café (a cute and comfortable spot in Vergennes, VT) and member of the Main Street Alliance of Vermont, compared the high road business practices of his company to the extractive economic policies of Walmart and other multinational corporations in his article, featured in The Hill.

“Small businesses like mine are being squeezed by tax policies written for the upper echelon. Even though our revenue sheets look much different than those of the retail giant, we are forced to supplement the income of their employees and absorb a larger share of the tax responsibility,” said Birong.

Kelly Conklin, a member of the Main Street Alliance national executive committee, owner of Foley-Waite cabinets in New Jersey, also weighed in on the issue and spoke about growing his business while supporting his community in his article, featured in the Augusta Free Press.

“Small businesses can’t afford an army of accountants and tax lawyers like Walmart can to create offshore tax-avoidance strategies,” said Conklin. “None of us have shell corporations in Luxembourg. Even if we could pull off such financial shenanigans, I honestly believe most of us wouldn’t want to.”

“We’d rather contribute what we should to the public good and see our communities thrive right alongside our businesses,” said Conklin.

Small business owners already face stiff competition from large corporations, like Walmart, that can execute bulk purchases and drive down prices. The latest tax evasion revelation demonstrates just how far the scales are tipped in favor of big businesses.

Congress can act to rein-in these practices – and our leaders will continue to work to make sure their voices are heard on this issue.

Los Angeles is Biggest City to Enact $15 Minimum Wage

Los Angeles has become the biggest city in the nation to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, Los Angeles City Council members voted 13-1 today to more than double the federal wage by 2020.

Los Angeles City Council members signaled two weeks ago that they would raise the minimum wage, and took the final vote today at their regular meeting.

During the earlier meeting, Kevin Litwin of Main Street Alliance of California, spoke in support of raising the wage even higher.Watch his testimony here: https://youtu.be/C2kEs8D3ZIY

“I am the Chief Operating Office at Joe’s Parking, and a member of the Main Street Alliance. Together we are support raising the L.A. minimum wage to $15.25. When Joe’s Auto Parks was founded in 1959 minimum wage was just $1 an hour. We didn’t pay the minimum then, and we don’t pay the minimum now. For over 50 years we have been committed to offering fair wages and attracting the best and brightest employees to manage our locations. That’s how we grew to one of the largest operations here in downtown L.A. We strongly hope you pass this and raise the wage to $15.25,” said Litwin.

The Council chambers were packed with more than 100 residents of the city, the vast majority supporting the minimum wage increase, and dozens of workers and community leaders providing comment echoing Litwin’s support.

After hearing the support and concerns of those in attendance the Council turned in a 14-1 vote in favor of raising the city’s wage to $15 gradually over the next 5 years. The full council vote next week before being written into law. The first wage bump will occur in July of 2016 when wages will rise to $10.60 an hour annually on their way to $15 by 2020.

Los Angeles joins Seattle and San Francisco, cities that recently passed laws to phase in a $15 minimum wage over several years. Chicago passed a minimum wage increase that plateaus at $13.

Cities and states throughout the country are discussing and debating minimum wage increases, including Maine, where Maine People’s Alliance is circulating petitions for a minimum wage referendum.

 

Main Street to Microsoft: “Stop offshore tax dodging”

This week, hundreds of Washington state small business owners affiliated with the Main Street Alliance of Washington sent an open letter to Microsoft calling on tech giant to stop offshore tax dodging, the Seattle Times reports.

According to BloombergBusinessweek, Microsoft tops the list of U.S. tech firms with the biggest overseas profit hauls, holding $76 billion in profits stashed offshore.  In their letter, small business owners express their disappointment that Microsoft has joined in coalitions with other big corporate interests lobbying for a permanent tax amnesty on offshore profits – a so-called “territorial” tax system – while backing cuts to Medicare and Social Security that would wreak further havoc on the Main Street economy.

“Small business owners are proud to contribute our fair share. We know that in order to build strong local economies, Read more

Will SEC order a dose of sunlight for corporate political spending?

Mary Jo White, the new Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, was recently confirmed to a five-year term that secures her position until 2019. With that kind of job security, Ms. White should be able to rise above the partisan pressures of Washington politics and advance a proactive agenda at the SEC that furthers its mission of protecting investors and promoting transparent, well-functioning markets.

But already, Chair White’s resolve is being put to the test through the debate on a proposed SEC rule that would require disclosure of public companies’ political spending. Read more

WITH WALL STREET “TOO BIG TO FAIL,” IS MAIN STREET “TOO SMALL TO PREVAIL”?

Small business forum adds Main Street voice to growing momentum for megabank limits

Today, small businesses owners from across the country added a Main Street voice to growing momentum for post-Dodd-Frank measures to end the era of “Too Big to Fail” banking in the lingering wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession that followed.

At a D.C. policy forum organized by the Main Street Alliance, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), FDIC Vice Chairman Thomas Hoenig, economist Simon Johnson, and a panel of small business owners and policy experts each spoke of the need for renewed attention to megabank limits in order to stabilize the financial system and support the Main Street economy. Read more

Small Business Owners Support Immigration Reform with Roadmap to Citizenship

Small business owners across the country are weighing in on the immigration debate. Their message: small businesses support immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship.statue of liberty

At May Day rallies tomorrow, around the country, small business leaders will be addressing the crowds; speaking up for comprehensive immigration reform. It seems a good moment to remind ourselves where exactly small business owners stand on this issue. Read more

Tax Havens for Big Business? Small Business Owners Say ‘Not so fast’

Multi-Partisan small business owners spoke out earlier this month, further distinguishing their interests from those of Big Business.

Wednesday, in his post “Has the Budget Crisis Du Jour Got You Down?” Bill Daley pointed out that if Congress were to close one tax loophole on offshore accounts, it could be enough to create a ‘job stimulus’ program the country has not seen since the beginning of the Great Recession. Read more