Connect with us

Business News

Small businesses fight for a voice in Washington

Brittany Jordan

Published

on

Small businesses fight for a voice in Washington


Small businesses are mounting a push to regain influence in Washington after what they say has been decades of neglect by policymakers.

The COVID-19 pandemic ravaged small businesses, shining a spotlight on the vulnerabilities owners face and forcing Congress to provide an unprecedented $800 billion in relief. 

Now, small businesses that survived the economic downturn are playing a pivotal role in high-profile debates over antitrust and infrastructure in Washington. 

Small Business Rising, a coalition representing more than 150,000 independent businesses launched in April, helped sway lawmakers to advance legislation to break up the largest tech companies through the House Judiciary Committee. The group says e-commerce giant Amazon is abusing its market power to block small firms from competing.  

The coalition scored a policy win this month when President BidenSmall businesses fight for a voice in WashingtonJoe BidenKentucky lawmaker faces scrutiny for comparing Fauci to Jonestown cult leader Omar leads lawmakers in calling for US envoy to combat Islamophobia Public charter schools group blasts proposed Democratic cut MORE signed an executive order that directs the Federal Trade Commission to bar “unfair methods of competition on internet marketplaces.”

The White House said tech companies’ huge platforms give them “unfair opportunities to get a leg up on the small businesses that rely on them to reach customers” in a fact sheet announcing the executive action. 

“That’s a shift,” said Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which helped form the coalition. “In the past, not only were both parties not concerned about concentrated economic power, but you didn’t see small business feature in the same way, either as a matter of policy or a matter of rhetoric.”

Members of Small Business Rising, which also includes National Grocers Association and the American Booksellers Association, closely communicated with Biden staffers as well as congressional committee staffers who drafted antitrust legislation.

But the coalition faces challenges against tech companies’ powerhouse lobbying teams.  

Amazon spent $5 million to deploy 87 lobbyists in the first quarter of 2021. That’s significantly more than all of the coalition’s members spent on lobbying, combined.

“They lobbied like crazy,” Mitchell said. “You could hardly get anyone to see an email because there were flooding inboxes with emails and requests for meetings and calls. It was really remarkable to see.”

Amazon has pushed back on the coalition’s arguments, saying it has “empowered small and medium-sized businesses.”

The tech industry’s efforts to kill or stall the bills will only ramp up when the House considers the legislation later this year. And while politicians frequently show support for small businesses on the campaign trail, business owners say they haven’t followed through in Congress. 

“We’ve consistently heard from small businesses across the country that they just didn’t feel like they had a voice in the process,” said Joe Wall, director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. 

In a survey conducted by the program, only 9 percent of small business owners felt they had a voice in the policymaking process. Only 7 percent said federal elected officials prioritize issues affecting small business over big business. 

In the early days of the pandemic, the program launched an advocacy arm to get small business owners in front of members of Congress. The initiative held multiple virtual fly-ins that connected more than 2,000 small businesses with hundreds of lawmakers.

“Congress’ idea of small business is not necessarily what you see on main street,” said Jessica Johnson-Cope, president of New York-based firm Johnson Security Bureau and chair of the Goldman Sachs small business initiative. “We have to continue to advocate with congressional leaders so that they understand what is happening in the trenches.”

Business owners in the initiative are pushing congressional leaders to overhaul the federal procurement process in the infrastructure bill. They say the current system creates barriers to entry for small businesses, which are often intimidated by the complicated application and certification process. 

A recent report from the program found that the number of small businesses contracting with the federal government shrank by 38 percent over the past decade, and the government has failed to meet procurement goals for women-owned small businesses and small businesses located in historically underused business zones.

“We’re trying to leverage the infrastructure bill, given that there’s going to be a tremendous amount of federal dollars going out the door and small businesses deserve a chance to get those contracts,” Wall said. 

The initiative has also helped small business owners meet with Biden Cabinet officials, efforts that have already appeared to pay off. Biden’s executive order, signed Friday, directs federal agencies to “promote greater competition through their procurement and spending decisions” to give a boost to small businesses. 

Business News

Poultry plant fined $1M over ‘entirely avoidable’ deaths of six workers

Brittany Jordan

Published

on

Poultry plant fined $1M over ‘entirely avoidable’ deaths of six workers


The Department of Labor this week issued nearly $1 million in fines over a January nitrogen leak at a poultry processing plant that killed six people and hospitalized at least a dozen others. 

The agency in a Thursday document listed a total of 59 safety violations and $998,637 in proposed penalties for the Foundation Food Group and three other companies with roles at the Gainesville, Ga., plant. 

The fines followed an investigation by the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which found that six workers at the plant died of asphyxiation after entering a freezer room where an equipment malfunction caused liquid nitrogen to release into the air. 

According to the OSHA, Foundation Food Group had not properly informed employees, either “by posting danger signs or by any other equally effective means, of the existence and location of, and the danger posed by the permit spaces.” 

The department’s 26 violations against the poultry company also included allegedly failing to “develop, document and use lockout procedures,” and “not training employees on the methods and observations used to detect the presence or release of nitrogen.” 

In total, the Labor Department has levied $595,474 in penalties against the Foundation Food Group. 

The agency also issued $74,118 in fines against Messer LLC, which provided the industrial gas for the plant. 

The OSHA argued this week that Messer had engaged in six violations, including exposing “workers to injuries and suffocation from the uncontrolled release of liquid nitrogen” and not making sure that lockout procedures were made known and shared between the host employer and workers. 

Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. Ltd. was also fined $286,720 for 17 serious and two repeat violations for failing to train workers on the hazards of liquid nitrogen and “not ensuring emergency eye washes were available and unobstructed.” 

FS Group Inc., the firm responsible for manufacturing and servicing equipment at the plant, faces $42,325 in fines for failing to train workers on the hazards posed by the machinery and emergency procedures on dealing with liquid nitrogen leaks. 

Labor Secretary Marty WalshPoultry plant fined $1M over ‘entirely avoidable’ deaths of six workersMarty WalshThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Goldman Sachs – Voting rights will be on ’22, ’24 ballots On The Money: Inflation spike puts Biden on defensive | Senate Democrats hit spending speed bumps | Larry Summers huddles with WH team On The Money: Biden fires head of Social Security Administration | IRS scandals haunt Biden push for more funding MORE said in a statement announcing the penalties that the deaths and hospitalizations suffered as a result of the nitrogen leak “were entirely avoidable.” 

“The Department of Labor is dedicated to upholding the law and using everything in our power to get justice for the workers’ families,” Walsh added. “The bottom line is no one should leave for work wondering if they’ll return home at the end of the day, and the Department of Labor is committed to holding bad actors accountable.”

The Hill has reached out to Foundation Food Group for comment. 

Continue Reading

Business News

De Blasio urges NYC businesses to require coronavirus vaccines

Brittany Jordan

Published

on

De Blasio urges NYC businesses to require coronavirus vaccines


New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioDe Blasio urges NYC businesses to require coronavirus vaccinesBill de Blasio43 percent of NYPD employees vaccinated: report The Hill’s Morning Report – Infrastructure vote fails; partisan feud erupts over Jan. 6 panel Israeli politician calls on Ben & Jerry’s to ‘rethink’ ban MORE (D) is pushing businesses to require that their employees be vaccinated as the delta variant of COVID-19 drives up cases around the country.

“I’m calling upon all New York City employers, including our private hospitals, to move immediately to some form of mandate,” the mayor said Friday while appearing on “The Brian Lehrer Show.” “Whatever the maximum you feel you can do.”

The Democratic mayor said the vaccination system that was in place for over half a year has been effective enough to restore some sense of normalcy, but that New York City has “reached the limits of a purely voluntary system.” Mandates, he argued, are the next step.

“Any type of mandate helps,” he said. “It will move the ball, it will get more people vaccinated.”

De Blasio said that every employer is different and he wants to “respect the individuality” of each business, “but if anyone is asking my advice, particularly the larger employers, move to mandates now.”

The mayor’s comments come days after he announced a new COVID-19 policy for city hospital workers. Public health employees in New York City are now required to either get vaccinated or take weekly COVID-19 tests.

De Blasio said he expects that over time the weekly testing will become “tiresome,” and employees will opt to get vaccinated. He is now pushing for the private health care industry to impose a similar mandate.

“We need to get serious more than ever about vaccination,” he said Friday. “If everyone was vaccinated right now we would not be having a conversation about the delta variant. This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” 

Continue Reading

Business News

Lobbyist Tony Podesta returns to work for Huawei

Brittany Jordan

Published

on

Lobbyist Tony Podesta returns to work for Huawei


Longtime Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta is joining Huawei as the embattled Chinese telecom company ramps up its efforts under the Biden administration.

Podesta, who previously led one of the most powerful lobbying firms in Washington, is making his return to politics after an extended hiatus. His Podesta Group disbanded in 2017 amid scrutiny from then-special counsel Robert MuellerLobbyist Tony Podesta returns to work for HuaweiRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE over the firm’s work with former Trump campaign adviser Paul ManafortLobbyist Tony Podesta returns to work for HuaweiPaul John ManafortFormer bank CEO convicted of bribery in scheme to land Trump admin job Trial begins for Chicago banker who exchanged loans with Manafort for Trump job Legal intrigue swirls over ex-Trump exec Weisselberg: Five key points MORE

The Justice Department ultimately dropped its investigation into Podesta’s firm. With Democrats retaking power and his legal troubles lifted, Podesta is eyeing a return to lobbying, The New York Times reported earlier this month.

Huawei has hired Podesta as a consultant, according to a source familiar with the matter. Politico first reported the news of Podesta’s hiring Friday. 

Huawei is bulking up its lobbying team as the Biden administration reviews the Trump White House’s China-related policies. The firm’s sales outside of China have plummeted following a series of restrictions imposed by the Trump administration and further tightened by President BidenLobbyist Tony Podesta returns to work for HuaweiJoe BidenOvernight Defense: Senate panel adds B to Biden’s defense budget | House passes bill to streamline visa process for Afghans who helped US | Pentagon confirms 7 Colombians arrested in Haiti leader’s killing had US training On The Money: Senate braces for nasty debt ceiling fight | Democrats pushing for changes to bipartisan deal | Housing prices hit new high in June Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill to hold platforms accountable for misinformation during health crises | Website outages hit Olympics, Amazon and major banks MORE.

The Shenzhen-based company hired several new lobbying firms run by former government officials in recent months. The telecom spent nearly $1.1 million on lobbying in the second quarter of 2021, up from just $170,000 during the same period last year, according to filings. 

Huawei wants Biden to undo a 2019 Trump administration order that bars it from doing business with American companies, including key partners such as Google, Qualcomm and Intel. The telecom is also pushing for the release of its executive Meng Wanzhou, who is being held in Canada on charges of circumventing U.S. sanctions.

The U.S. has accused Huawei of using its technology to spy on U.S. entities on behalf of Beijing, an allegation it denies.

While Huawei was hopeful that Trump’s election loss would bring relief, Biden has imposed further restrictions on the Chinese firm. Last month, Biden signed an executive order prohibiting U.S. investments in Huawei and other firms that allegedly helped the Chinese government repress the Uyghur ethnic minority and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.

Huawei and Podesta did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2021 Federal Inquirer. All rights reserved.