Video footage of a closed-door webinar provided to the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reveals top GOP pollsters instructing Chamber of Commerce lobbyists to ignore internal survey data showing that Chamber members across the country overwhelmingly support progressive workplace policies such as paid sick days, paid family and medical leave, a higher minimum wage and predictable scheduling. In the video, pollsters with LuntzGlobal coach lobbyists from state and local Chambers on how to thwart the “empathy” that Chamber members feel for their employees and their support for family friendly workplace policies.
“This webinar reveals just how deeply corporate interests and their lobbyists are influencing the priorities of state Chambers of Commerce, even when that agenda contradicts the opinions of their local business members,” said Lisa Graves, executive director of the CMD, a national watchdog organization that monitors the hidden influence of corporate interests in politics. “Rather than listening to its members and crafting a policy agenda that reflects their priorities, Chamber lobbyists pick their policy positions behind closed doors and then figure out how to convince their members to fall in line.”
“Paid sick days, paid family and medical leave, fair scheduling and a higher minimum wage are critically important to the health and well-being of workers, their families and the businesses that employ them,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, which has pioneered this country’s leave policies. “We have known for years what this research confirms: that an overwhelming share of business leaders support paid sick days, paid leave and other family friendly policies. It’s long past time for the knee-jerk opposition, and baseless sky-is-falling claims, from organized business interests to end. We should be working together to adopt the advances that benefit everyone, not having pitched battles every time we try to advance a paid sick days or paid leave law or raise the minimum wage.”
The U.S. Chamber has lobbied against paid sick days in California, Connecticut, Colorado (Denver), Florida, Maryland, New Jersey and New Mexico, among other states. It also has lobbied on Capitol Hill and in statehouses across the country to block federal, state and local minimum wage increases, and has been active in states like Arizona, Alabama, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan and Wisconsin to preempt local minimum wage ordinances.
During the hour-long webinar, which was hosted by the Council of State Chambers in February 2016, LuntzGlobal consultants present the results of an internal survey of 1,000 C-suite executives who are either current or prospective Chamber members. The poll finds that – contrary to the Chamber’s lobbying agenda – 82 percent of current or prospective Chamber members support increased paternity leave time, 80 percent support raising the minimum wage, 73 percent support paid sick days, 78 percent support predictive scheduling policies and 72 percent support increased maternity leave time.
In the webinar, a LuntzGlobal consultant asks about the poll findings: “So what do these results all have in common? Well, quite frankly, they’re all empathetic.” In response, the consultants advise Council of State Chamber lobbyists on messaging and strategies to help their members get over their empathy and to undermine and change their members’ views: “So what we’ll try to do is actually give you a few helpful hints on how to actually combat these [workplace reform efforts and their popularity among business leaders] in your states…”
“It’s a warped, undemocratic process, and the Chambers should be held accountable for their claims to the public, press, and elected officials that businesses oppose raising the minimum wage, paid sick leave, increased family and medical leave and other common sense policies, when in fact substantial majorities of business executives actually support these public policies,” Graves added.
“With their internal polls showing that business owners and executives support raising the minimum wage by an overwhelming 80-to-8 percent, it’s unconscionable that the U.S. Chamber and state chambers continue to fight the wage increases that America’s workers and our economy need,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.
The LuntzGlobal survey reflects a national sample of business owners and executives who are registered voters and who are members of the local, state, or U.S. Chamber of Commerce or match the profile of executives that the chambers would want to attract. In all, 73 percent were CEOs or owners; 59 percent had revenues of $50 million to $500 million; 39 percent had fewer than 100 employees while another 41 percent had 100 – 499 employees. The results included 250 responses per region (East, Midwest, South, West), with results weighted among all states in each region.
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The National Partnership for Women & Families drafted and led the fight for the Family and Medical Leave Act. The organization is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at NationalPartnership.org.
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) is a national watchdog group that conducts in-depth investigations into the undue influence of corporations on media and democracy. It has previously released key whistleblower documents exposing the dark lobbying efforts of groups including the America Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other corporate interests. CMD publishes PRWatch.org, ALECexposed.org, SourceWatch.org and other sites. More materials are available here: prwatch.org/news/2016/03/13072/chamber-commerce
About the National Partnership
The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care and policies that help all people meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at NationalPartnership.org.