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Business Council members top list of top employers

Congratulations to our member companies who were recognized this week as among the best employer’s in the country for workers with disabilities.

The list is compiled by Careers & the disABLED magazine, the only national career recruitment publication for people with disabilities.

We are tremendously proud to have these companies as our members and congratulate them on this honor.

*Denotes that this company is a member of The Business Council of New York State, Inc.

TOP 50 EMPLOYERS
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY
2015 Readers’ Choice

  1. Verizon*
  2. GE*
  3. Google
  4. Amazon
  5. State Farm Insurance*
  6. Merck & Co., Inc.*
  7. Lockheed Martin
  8. American Express*
  9. Boston Scientific
  10. General Dynamics
  11. Oracle
  12. Boeing
  13. Kellogg Company
  14. Apple
  15. Intel
  16. KPMG*
  17. Honda
  18. Comcast NBCUniversal
  19. Gap
  20. Prudential*
  21. CSX
  22. Nike
  23. Hyatt
  24. Ford Motor Company
  25. AT&T*
  26. CVS Caremark*
  27. General Motors*
  28. Liberty Mutual*
  29. Johnson & Johnson*
  30. Genentech*
  31. Aetna*
  32. Philips
  33. Wells Fargo
  34. Northwest Mutual
  35. EY*
  36. Marriott
  37. Amgen
  38. USAA
  39. PSEG*
  40. Ball Aerospace & Technologies
  41. BASF*
  42. AstraZeneca
  43. CA Technologies
  44. CenturyLink
  45. Grant Thornton
  46. T. Rowe Price
  47. Reynolds America
  48. Life Technologies
  49. Owens & Minor
  50. Capital One

Report: State errors led to insurer’s collapse

Today the Empire Center released a report that concludes that the recent collapse of Health Republic (the health insurance co-op established under the ACA) which disrupted coverage for 215,000 New Yorkers, was a result, in large-part, to failures by the state and the Department of Financial Services (DFS). The report states that DFS took no obvious steps to address serious and glaring financial problems at Health Republic and instead used its regulatory power of prior-approval of health premiums to further lower Health Republic’s inadequate premiums.

Consistent with the position that The Business Council has often opined, the report concludes that DFS needs to concentrate more on plan solvency. We believe the goal of making health coverage more affordable is best achieved by the removal of high taxes and unfunded mandates, rather than the imposition of price controls through a politicized prior-approval regime. The Empire Center’s report can be found The Empire Center’s report can be found here.

Wage hike spurs fear, changes for restaurants

The Buffalo News has a terrific piece in today’s paper examining the ways restaurateurs are preparing for the significant worker wage increase coming into effect next year. Tipped worker wages are set to rise by 50 percent, from $5.00 an hour all the way to $7, come January 1st. That’s squeezing already tight profit margins and forcing management to cut hours, raise prices and consider more upcharges.

From The Buffalo News: “Betty’s is a long-established neighborhood favorite on Virginia Street in Buffalo. In anticipation of the new wage law, it has increased prices by between 50 cents and $1.50 per item, and will probably do it again in a few months. The strategy is to soften the blow with two smaller, separate increases, said Carole Simon, a Betty’s co-owner.

The price increase would have been steeper, but the restaurant tried to avoid that by cutting costs elsewhere. It has altered its hours to cut down on payroll costs, opening a half-hour later and closing a half-hour earlier. It has removed two popular but time-consuming dishes from the menu – the jibarito plantain sandwich and the spinach potato pancakes. And it has pared dishes down to their basic elements, listing them with upcharges for extras. That way, customers have the option of ordering the basic eggs, home fries and toast for $5.50, or they can upgrade to vegan sausage and gluten-free bread if they’re willing to pay more.”

Remember this when advocates for a $15 an hour minimum wage for all workers say The Business Council and other business groups are wrong when we predict wage increases will negatively impact the economy and cost jobs.

Learn more about our fight against a $15 an hour minimum wage by visiting www.minimumwagerealitycheck.com.

New York State gets healthier

In a fascinating and thorough state-by-state study of public health, conducted by UnitedHealth Foundation (a charitable foundation of The Business Council member UnitedHealth) and the American Public Health Association, New York State climbs in the rankings to #13.  According to the report, New York adults are becoming a bit more physically active and our state’s obesity figures have slightly decreased.

While there is certainly room for improvement, New York’s climbing in the ranks represents a move in the right direction for all New Yorkers, especially employers who are always looking to help better the health of their employees. The study can be found here.

Minimum wage reality check

Perhaps you saw the piece that ran in the Buffalo News over the weekend called “Raising the minimum wage is good economics” co-authored by an economics professor at SUNY Buffalo. Well, hopefully you don’t know anyone who is taking that professor’s class, because his reasoning is way off base.

Our Vice-President Ken Pokalsky decided to give a few of the more outlandish claims in the piece the Minimum Wage Reality Check treatment:

“In Seattle, the first city to adopt a $15 minimum wage, unemployment just hit an eight-year low of 3.6 percent.”

Reality Check: Seattle is not at a $15 an hour wage today, the city’s phased-in wage is currently at $11 an hour. Moreover, Seattle wages could be depressing jobs in low wage sectors, while others continue to grow. We need to wait and see. But job counts and unemployment rates with an $11 an hour wage isn’t evidence of what job counts and unemployment rates will be under a $15 an hour wage.

“In fact, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has said,”

Reality Check: The rest of the sentence doesn’t matter. Paul Krugman is a left of center political commentator now, regardless of his prior work. What he says is hardly evidence of anything, other than his blatant bias.

“The City of Buffalo defines a living wage as enough to keep a family of three out of poverty; in 2016 the rate will be $13.06 per hour.”

Reality Check: So what, this applies only to vendors who VOLUNTARILY choose to do business with the city, and only applies to contracts > $50,000.

“Inflation in this country over the last century has averaged over 3 percent.”

Reality Check: Again, what is the point? Over the last 10 years inflation has averaged a smidge over 2 percent. The last 5 years it’s been under 2 percent. So why use a figure 50% higher than recent trends? Unless of course you’re simply trying to deliberately mislead.

Facts not on union’s side

You know you’ve hit a nerve when the opposition resorts to misleading arguments.

Today’s Newsday features an article where the Long Island Labor Federation dismisses a new report by the Long Island Association projecting significant job losses resulting from a $15 an hour minimum wage. The Newsday story is here. (it is behind a paywall, sorry)

According to the Federation, the LIA’s report projecting job losses of up to 23,000 is “disproved” by “numerous” studies, and cites a letter from “600 economists” to President Obama arguing that a minimum wage increase won’t hurt jobs. The Long Island Federation of Labor is being completely disingenuous. Five seconds of searching on the web finds the letter being referred to here. While the federation is right, “600 economists” do support an increase in the federal minimum wage, the proposed increase is from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. That’s nowhere near $15 an hour, the target wage that was the focus of the LIA’s analysis and a recent Empire Center report. In fact, New York’s minimum wage is already set to go to $9 at the end of the year, a level close to the 600 economists’ target level. At $9, New York’s minimum wage will be one of the highest in the U.S.

We are unaware of “numerous” other studies that “disprove” the projections from the Empire Center and the Long Island Association on a $15/hour minimum wage. Most studies we have seen look at far lower target levels. For example, a CBO study issued in 2014 suggested that a $10.10/hr. minimum wage would reduce national employment by 500,000. That same study conceded that the actual job impact could be “very slight” or climb as high as 1 million. New York is talking about going well beyond $10.10 an hour and the only credible studies to date indicate significant job loss.

A numbers game

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner made news, and received plaudits from liberal activists like The Working Families Party, earlier this week when she announced she was increasing the minimum wage for all city employees to $15 an hour.

Miner estimates the move will affect 61 of the city’s 1700 employees and cost roughly $220,000 per year. It’s not an eye-popping number, and probably speaks more to the overall high wages of city of Syracuse employees than anything else, but it’s also not chump change. The increase is sure to have an impact, and becomes increasingly questionable when put into context with Miner’s own comments when she submitted her budget last April. From the Syracuse Post Standard (emphasis added):

“Her 2015-16 budget anticipates a $9.2 million deficit, which will have to be paid for out of cash reserves unless city officials can cut costs during the year. That’s the smallest deficit since Miner took office in 2010, but a sign that Syracuse continues to face a fiscal crisis, Miner said Tuesday.”

So, in April Mayor Miner was proposing a budget with a $9.2 million deficit that would be paid either out of a so-called “rainy day fund”, or by cutting costs. Now, just six months later, not only is Mayor Miner not cutting costs, she’s increasing them.

Rainy day funds are supposed to be used, like the name suggests, during dire financial times. Dipping into them to give artificially-inflated wage increases to dozens of city workers seems at best, misguided.

We can’t help but wonder how the people of Syracuse will feel when Miner’s next budget calls for tax increases in order to cover these increased costs.

Uber release highlights economic impact

Officials from the car-sharing service Uber were joined by Business Council President Heather Briccetti, elected officials, and local stakeholders at a news conference in the New York State Capitol yesterday.

Business Council President Heather Briccetti joined by Uber, elected officials, local stakeholders.

The news conference was called to highlight a newly released economic impact study that, among other findings, states Uber would create as many as thirteen thousand jobs in its first year of operation in upstate New York.

The full study, which can be read here, goes on to say that 350 thousand New Yorkers in areas not currently serviced by Uber have downloaded the app. Uber NY General Manager Josh Mohrer says this shows people throughout upstate New York are clamoring for the service.

In addition to yesterday’s news conference and study release, Uber has also launched an online petition giving everyday New Yorkers the chance to voice their approval of bringing Uber to all of New York State. You can sign the petition by clicking here.

Behind the Q-Poll

Most pollsters will tell you, how you ask the question can impact the answer. What they don’t always mention is the result can often significantly alter the public narrative on an issue.

Last week’s Quinnipiac University poll is a perfect example. Their press release claimed “New York poll found voters back $15 minimum wage,” and in their first poll question, “Would you support or oppose raising the state’s minimum wage to $15.00 an hour over the next several years?” participants agreed, 62 to 35%. The headline in a number of media outlets was, Q poll shows support for Governor’s $15 minimum wage proposal.

But that poll had a second minimum wage question, and the response has been largely ignored by the media.

It asked: Which of four options “…comes closest to your point of view regarding raising the state’s minimum wage,”?

  • No increase
  • an increase but less than $15
  • an increase to $15
  • or an increase above $15

For this question, 49% preferred something less than $15, slightly more than the 48% who preferred $15 or higher. Interestingly, for upstate respondents, 61% supported an increase under $15, including 13% who chose no increase. When given a range of choices, the Q-poll found that New Yorkers in fact are split on the $15 per hour proposal.

Then there is this opinion piece in yesterday’s NY Post. Michael Saltsman, from the Employment Policy Institute, used Google’s Consumer Survey tool to survey 504 New Yorkers. He first asked about a $15 per hour minimum wage, and – similar to Quinnipiac – found a support rate of 57%. But when they asked whether New Yorker’s would support that policy if it would cause some less-skilled employees to lose their jobs, the results flipped to 57% in opposition. When asked how they’d feel about a $15 minimum wage if it would cause some small businesses to close, 67% opposed it.

No doubt, there will be numerous studies on the economic impact of a $15 minimum wage. Three west coast cities– Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles – have adopted laws moving toward that figure, and some data are already showing job loss. Stay tuned.

New York slips in Legal Climate Ranking

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform is out with their latest rankings of state legal climates and New York State has slipped to number 21. While not a precipitous decline, we had been ranked the 18th best climate when the survey was last conducted in 2012, we are clearly going in the wrong direction. The Business Council strongly believes that more work needs to be done to ensure we do not slip further back in the pack.

Despite the setback, New York did receive high marks in two key areas, ranking in the top five in: “Having and enforcing meaningful venue requirements” and “Scientific and technical evidence”.

Here is more on the survey itself: “The 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey constitutes the tenth fielding of the survey and builds upon previous studies, the first of which was initiated in 2002.1 Prior to these rankings, information regarding the attitudes of the business community toward the legal systems in each of the states had been largely anecdotal. The 2015 Lawsuit Climate Survey aims to quantify how corporate attorneys, as significant participants in state courts, view the state systems by measuring and synthesizing their perceptions of key elements of each state’s liability system into a 1-50 ranking. Participants in the survey were comprised of a national sample of 1,203 in-house general counsel, senior litigators or attorneys, and other senior executives at companies with at least $100 million in annual revenues2 who indicated they: (1) are knowledgeable about litigation matters; and (2) have recent litigation experience in each state they evaluate.”

You can read this year’s results, and check on the stats from prior years, by clicking here.