Archive | The Hill RSS for this section

Are teachers to blame for the worker shortage?

(This post originally appeared on The Hill)

I was talking to a friend of mine recently who owns a construction company near Nashville, Tenn. Not surprisingly, it’s been a busy couple of years, and he’s certainly not complaining. Also not surprisingly, when I asked him what his biggest challenge is, he immediately told me it was finding good people.  “I have a chronic worker shortage,” he said.

Most businesses, particularly small businesses, are faced with the same challenge. The economy’s strong, unemployment is as low as it’s been in 50 years and talent is scarce. Some blame big companies who offer better pay and benefits. Others blame the government’s immigration policies.

My friend? He blames teachers. Read More…

Employers and contractors enjoy a harmonious relationship

(This post originally appeared on The Hill)

On Monday, the U.S. Labor Department (DOL) wrote a letter to a company that employs independent contractors. In the letter, the department re-affirmed the Trump administration’s position that those workers were not employees. Good.

Besides the Labor Department letter, April also saw a new rule from The Texas Workforce Commission that classified “gig” workers that were hired for jobs through online applications as independent contractors and not employees. Read More…

NYC: A regulation wonderland, a small business nightmare

(This post originally appeared on The Hill)

As a lifelong Philadelphian, I’ve never had much sympathy for the plight of New Yorkers, particularly Mets fans. But that’s all changing. I feel pretty bad for people trying to run a small business in that town. Believe me, Philadelphia has its challenges, but for small operators in the Big Apple, it’s a much tougher life.

Of course, businesses in New York City have a much larger pool of potential customers, but they’ve also got a lot of competition as well as higher taxes and rents. Yet, that’s not even the worst of it. The real challenge to New York City business owners is their own local and state governments. Read More…

Association health plans are enticing but not worth the risk

(This post originally appeared on The Hill)

As a business owner, I think association health plans are a great idea. I think they’re a great option to provide to employees. I think they can save both the employee and the employer a lot of money. How?

For starters, they’re easy to form. The way the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) 2018 rule (which went into effect this year) was written, businesses that share an industry affiliation or are even located in a similar geographic area could band together to form their own “association.” So a group of packaging distributors or a bunch of merchants on Main Street would be able to do this. Read More…

Universal health care would benefit my small business

(This post originally appeared on The Hill)

Ask someone living in Canada, the U.K., Australia or any other country that has a universal, single-payer or national health-care system and they’ll certainly tell you it’s far from perfect.

My wife is British and her parents both live in London. As they’ve gotten older, they’ve sadly gotten sicker. They could take advantage of Britain’s National Health System (NHS) but, other than the usual doctor visits, they rely on private insurance for the big ticket stuff, which is an option there.

They believe the care is better and faster that way. They’re right and because they live in Britain (as opposed to Canada) they have that option.

The NHS, in particular, has many problems, and you know what they are: long wait periods, stretched resources, underpaid doctors, etc. Read More…

Any US-China trade deal should be taken with a grain of salt

This post originally appeared on The Hill

Doing business in China or even competing against Chinese companies is difficult enough for large corporations. But for smaller companies it has been historically harder. Over the past two decades, I’ve sat and listened to many of my clients — owners of small and medium-sized companies — complain about this.

Many of these allegations have proven true. As part of the country’s aggressive growth plans, the Chinese government has had its hand in helping many of its homegrown companies gain market share by propping up their finances while they sell products at a loss.

The Chinese government has been accused of manipulating markets, playing games with its currency and creating artificial barriers for companies attempting to sell their products there. Read More…

Ivanka must recalibrate her paid family leave plan to make it tenable

(This post originally appeared on The Hill)

On Wednesday, Ivanka Trump headed to Capitol Hill to meet with key Republican members about pushing the paid family leave initiatives that was originally proposed (and ultimately removed from) President Trump’s 2017 budget.

I wish her luck, but it’s going to be a tough sell. Why? Because Trump, like many others in Congress who support the initiative, are all missing a crucial point.

Trump wants to expand the current Family and Medical Leave Act to offer six weeks of paid leave to new parents. Its funding would be provided through unemployment insurance.

“As a mother myself, of three young children, I know how hard it is to work while raising a family,” Ivanka Trump previously said in this CNN report. “And I also know that I’m far more fortunate than most. American families need relief. Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties, they should be the norm.”

Ivanka Trump is right about this. And she has allies on both sides of the aisle. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has offered up his plan to provide paid leave that would be mostly funded by allowing workers to draw down on their Social Security benefits.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) loves the idea so much that she wants to double down and offer 12 weeks of paid leave not only to new parents but to people caring for family members with serious medical conditions.

Although there’s widespread support for some type of government assistance for working mothers — and some states and cities have already mandated that employers provide time off — the current initiatives proposed by Trump, Rubio, Gillibrand and others are facing stiff opposition because, regardless of what’s on the table, the costs would be substantial.

“My impression is the White House is increasingly engaged on this and making it a priority as they look forward to what is possible this year — assuming one thinks bipartisan legislation is possible in this climate,” a senior GOP aide told a Washington Post reporter. “There are folks who know the (Republican) party needs a position but are unsure of how to craft a policy, and there are still folks who don’t think there is a federal nexus to be played.”

There is an answer to the family leave issue — both for Republicans and Democrats. It just requires its supporters to consider a more-targeted approach. Instead of providing the federal benefit to all workers, the legislation should focus on just half of them: the more than 50 percent of the workforce employed by small businesses.

The fact is that most large employers in this country already provide generous paid family leave. Why? Because they can afford to.

Paid time-off has been a hot issue over the past few years, particularly as employees from the millennial generation — who, in countless surveys, have vocally supported flexibility, mobility, independence and work-life balance — are now becoming a greater share of the workforce. So companies, particularly big companies, have responded.

Netflix, for example, provides up to a year off for its employees who are new parentsHilton hotels offer up to 10 weeks of paid time-off for hourly workers. Tech firms like Facebook, Microsoft and Google all provide variations of unlimited vacation plans.

These are just the big names but, in my anecdotal research over the past few years, I haven’t encountered a single large company that doesn’t offer some form of generous time-off for their employees, particularly for new parents or those caring for others with a medical issue.

So that takes care of half of the workforce. Knowing that, we should be focusing on the other half.

Those would be the employees at small firms — let’s say with less than 500 people, because that’s how the Small Business Administration defines them. Firms like those are struggling to compete with the generous benefits offered by larger competitors; they can’t afford to offer the kind of paid time-off that big companies provide.

A federal paid time-off plan for new parents that’s targeted only at small businesses would help level the playing field. It would reduce small companies’ costs. It would allow them to hire more people and grow their businesses.

It would also be done at half the cost of all of plans currently under consideration because only half of the workforce would qualify — the half that actually needs it.

A federal paid time-off bill doesn’t have to be so expensive. Not as long as it is focused on the right people.