In towns across America, businesses often turn to state chambers of commerce to promote the economic growth of their community, connect with other local business owners, and influence public policy so it reflects their values, beliefs and concerns—or so their members are told.
But that’s not what’s happening. Apparently it’s the political agenda of the chambers of commerce and their network of trade groups, Washington pollsters, lobbyists, and billionaire ideologues that matter more than the priorities of state businesses.
Right now, state chambers of commerce from California to Connecticut--coordinated through a DC-area group called the Council of State Chambers--are leading fights against raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing paid sick days, and other workplace reforms. Given the prominent opposition from the state chambers, you might reasonably assume their campaigning and lobbying reflects the views of most of their business members.
Not so, according to recent Council of State Chambers polling brought to light by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), which shows that state chamber members overwhelming support raising wages, proving paid sick time, and other workplace reforms that would help their employees and their families.
The poll, conducted by LuntzGlobal, the survey research firm of noted GOP pollster and operative Frank Luntz, and commissioned by the Council of State Chambers, found that–contrary to the U.S. Chamber and state chamber lobbying agenda–80% of business leaders support raising the minimum wage, 73% support paid sick days, and 78% support predictive scheduling policies, among other progressive workplace policies.
In an hour-long video webinar about the poll, LuntzGlobal and the Council advised the executives who serve as the chief lobbyists for state chambers on messaging to help business owners overcome the “empathy” they feel for their employees and counsel the lobbyists on how to surmount their members’ support for stronger workplace policies in order to conform with a nationally-driven corporate anti-worker agenda.
In a political atmosphere that is already divisive, why would chambers of commerce fuel the idea that small, medium, and large businesses disagree with the American people -- and their members?
The truth is that the state chambers are fronting for corporate interests that are not in line with their members. Fueled by funding from billionaires like the Koch brothers, the U.S. Chamber is pursuing a different, deeper ideological agenda – limiting government regulation and oversight, keeping all levels of government from regulating wages, benefits, health and safety standards, and promoting the bottom line interests of the corporations and their allies.
In this instance, you can clearly see the state chambers being told how to align their lobbying agenda against their members and the majority of the American people and with other Koch-funded groups, like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which provides thousands of state lawmakers with “model” bills to stop, block, and stall progress on minimum wage and other family friendly policies. And this year the Kochs and their network have pledged to raise and spend nearly a billion dollars this election season to get politicians to pursue this same agenda.
This collusion between chamber of commerce state lobbyists, top GOP operatives, and billionaire ideologues is, quite frankly, unconscionable and immoral. It has fueled legislative gridlock to prevent reforms that have real consequences for the millions of Americans who need a raise to support their families, sick days when they or their kid gets sick and time off when they have a baby.
But it turns out that support for measures to improve the way we work and live today is overwhelming, even among business leaders. And that’s really great news. Now, we just have to make sure policymakers across the country know it.
Lisa Graves, who currently serves as Executive Director of CMD