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Business leaders fight back against anti-business legislation

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Article Courtesy of the Salem Chamber

In what’s been referred to as the most anti-business legislative session in years, there is growing unease among businesses in the region about the cumulative effect proposed legislation will have on the ability of the Salem area – and the state – to attract, conduct, and grow business. As a result, business leaders have rallied, reaching out to legislators and sharing their stories on the impact proposed legislation would have on their business.

Treva Gambs, owner of Gamberetti’s Italian Restaurant, has been vocal on several issues, offering testimony on both mandatory sick leave and minimum wage. She has taken her involvement one step further by having several meetings with her staff where she has shared her financials, explaining what proposed legislation would mean for her business and their jobs.

“They were pretty stunned,” she said. “They didn’t realize the impact it would have.”

Many of the bills aimed at increasing benefits for employees – including mandatory sick leave, increasing minimum wage, and flexible scheduling – seem to have little regard for the consequences of these changes and the impact it will have on an improving economy.

“If you’re making $12 or $13 [an hour] and you go to $15, but all your costs go up, are you really ahead? Other people have lost their jobs to make that happen.

“We’ve all got a pretty small profit margin here in small business,” she continued. “My profit margin right now is 4.5 percent. The max that most restaurants make is 10 percent. Ten percent would not even cover the depth of the costs that they are looking at.”

Curt Arthur, managing director of Sperry Van Ness Commercial Advisors, LLC, echoed these concerns. “The legislative bills that I have seen make it out of committee in the 2015 Oregon Legislature are bad news for small businesses throughout Oregon.”

One of the concerns raised during this session is the driving force behind many of these bills is the presumption that there is an adversarial relationship between employees and employers. President of VIP’S Industries, Inc., Steve Johnson, challenged that premise. During his testimony before the House Committee on Business and Labor on flex scheduling legislation, he stated that the presumption of employers taking advantage of employees is “offensive”.

“Every single employee that’s ever come to work for us has walked into our doors and asked us for a job,” he said. “We haven’t employed tens of thousands of people by being abusive towards them. It’s a teamwork scenario, it’s a cooperative relationship.”

Johnson went on to say that while he appreciated the goal of addressing social and economic concerns, regulation is not the way to do it.

“Marital status, lack of education, lack of skill training, child care responsibilities – those are very serious issues,” said Johnson. “But those are the issues, not the work scheduling of the hospitality industry.”

The efforts of business owners are starting to pay off. Amid pressure from the business community, modifications have been made to nearly every bill that has widespread private sector impact. The mindset in the capitol though is still deeply concerning.

“As a business community, we need to make sure those making decisions understand what it’s like to sign the front of a paycheck ,” said Nick Williams, public policy manager from the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce. “Only then will we see the needle move in favor of job creation instead of employment stagnancy.”

If you are interested in learning more about legislative issues or how you can get involved, contact Nick Williams, nick@salemchamber.org

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