A few days after print publication, Knight's syndicated newspaper column, which moves twice a week, will be posted. The most recent will appear at the top.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Watch for spin on CEO support for reforms

Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., May 30, 31 or June 1

One of Big Business’s main lobbies seems as out of touch with the leaders of the interest it purports to represent as Republican powerbrokers are out of touch with GOP voters who spurned the elite for Donald Trump.

Also, CEOs may not be the heartless cads that many Americans regard them to be.

So when you hear Illinois Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Todd Maisch, Gov. Bruce Rauner or similar big shots make predictable and anti-worker assertions, be skeptical.

It turns out that U.S. executives support key issues that workers advocate, according to a poll conducted for the Chamber of Commerce’s Council of State Chambers (COSC). Nevertheless, a secretive webinar about the results seemed to “accentuate the negative and eliminate the positive,” to twist the old standard, according to the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), which obtained a copy of the poll results.

The poll was taken by LuntzGlobal, the firm run by noted Republican consultant Frank Luntz, and it showed that the business leaders say they’d like to raise wages, enact predictive employee scheduling, and increase paid maternity and sick leave plans.

Despite such findings, though, webinar participants were reportedly told how to spin the debate about those issues instead of supporting the policies (much less implementing them in their own companies).

Commissioned by the COSC – a group that helps state Chamber of Commerce lobbyists push the U.S. Chamber’s ever-increasing conservative agenda – the poll interviewed business executives and registered voters who are Chamber members.

Almost three-fourths of the respondents were CEOs or owners, and about half of their companies generate between $50 million and $500 million in annual revenue – so these weren’t trial lawyers, small businesspeople selling fair-trade goods, or vendors supplying t-shirts and banners to unions locals.

Not only did 46 percent think there were “not enough” or “just enough” government mandates, an overwhelming percentage surprisingly backed pretty progressive policies.

For example:

* 80 percent supported raising their state’s minimum wage, prompting LuntzGlobal managing director David Merritt to comment, “It is undeniable that they support an increase,” CMD reported.

* 78 percent back predictive scheduling rather than on-call methods, meaning workers would get advance notice about when they’re expected to work.

* 73 percent support paid sick leave, and 83 percent back giving workers “time off to take care of sick children or relatives.”
* 72 percent support expanding maternity leave and even more – 82 percent – backed paternity leave.

* Perhaps even more unexpected, when given the choices including “replacing the Affordable Care Act,” “making health care affordable for small businesses,” and “keeping health care costs low for American families,” most preferred the latter.

“A top take-away for the pollsters?” asked Mary Bottari of CMD. “CEOs have empathy for their workers and society as a whole.”

However, “based on the directives to state chamber lobbyists in the webinar, COSC is eager to help Chambers of Commerce overcome that empathy and continue to oppose legal policies strongly supported by both the American people and the business executives the chambers tell the press and public that they represent.”

Yes, workers should be skeptical – and businesspeople also should demand their “representatives” work toward goals that grassroots businesspeople actually support.

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