The Pump Handle

Leaked poll shows business execs overwhelmingly support paid leave, higher wages and fair scheduling

You know how opponents of paid sick leave and raising the minimum wage always cite resistance in the business community? Well, in turns out that such resistance might be closer to a marketing gimmick rather than a genuine reflection of employer sentiment.

Yesterday, the Center for Media and Democracy released a leaked internal poll of 1,000 top-level business executives nationwide, many of whom are members of their local or state chambers of commerce. Here’s what the poll, which was commissioned by the Council of State Chambers and conducted by LuntzGlobal, found: 80 percent supported raising the state minimum wage, 73 percent supported paid sick leave, 72 percent supported increasing maternity leave, 82 percent supported mandating paternity leave, and 78 percent supported predictive scheduling.

And here’s where it gets even more interesting (and more disappointing). During a webinar for state chamber lobbyists, consultants from LuntzGlobal, run by GOP pollster Frank Luntz, discussed strategies to water down that support. In fact, they actually discussed ways to undermine employers’ “empathy” for workers and their families. (You can hear audio from the webinar here.) Following are just a few choice quotes from the webinar transcript:

On minimum wage:

A lot of you guys have minimum wage battles at the state level.

If you are fighting those fights, the best way to fight it is to not talk about the minimum wage.

If you can, turn it into a federal issue, and talk about expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit. Or as we have actually done a lot of research, renaming it would actually be better, if it were called a Working Family Credit.

And we’ll get into this later as well, when you have a minimum wage fight, you have to come back with some kind of positive solution. You simply can’t say we’re opposed to the minimum wage, you actually have to have an alternative to make a credible argument, and this is the best one that we found.

On paid leave:

So here’s the question about maternity and paternity leave. 72 (percent) to 9 (percent) for increasing maternity leave.

Mandating paternity leave was 82 to 7.

Again, overwhelming numbers in all of these mandates in isolation have similar support.

We broke it down by members of state chambers and non-members, and your members actually supported more so than non-members.

On how to combat empathy among business owners:

So what do these results all have in common, well quite frankly they are all empathetic.

If you ask about them in isolation, of course we want to take care of people who are caring for a loved one, of course we want to give folks more benefits, or more leave, or more income.

So when you ask about them like that and they interpret them like that, they aren’t government regulations, they’re talking more about personal protections.

And that’s why so often businesses actually don’t win these arguments. It’s because they’re fighting against government regulations, they’re not fighting for personal protections.

So what we’ll try to do is actually give you a few helpful hints on how to actually combat these in your states.

In a news release about the leaked poll, Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, said: “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. 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.”

Go here to read a full transcript from the webinar, view the poll results and listen to the leaked materials for yourself. And read more coverage of the leak from Lydia DePillis at the Washington Post.

Kim Krisberg is a freelance public health writer living in Austin, Texas, and has been writing about public health for nearly 15 years.