Marijuana Legalization Harmful to Business

Posted by Rick Lord on Oct 19, 2016 10:30:00 AM

A proposed law on the November ballot to legalize and commercialize marijuana in Massachusetts would reverse decades of hard-won progress by employers to create safe and drug-free workplaces.

VoteHereSign.jpgQuestion 4 would place employers in the untenable position of determining whether an employee who tests positive for marijuana, used legally under state law, is too impaired to operate a machine or drive a company vehicle safely. It would also create a legal nightmare for employers caught between a state law that permits private use of marijuana and a federal law - often the overriding jurisdiction in employment scenarios - that prohibits marijuana use.

That’s why the Board of Directors of AIM has joined an extraordinary coalition of public officials, civic leaders and businesses urging a “no” vote on Question 4. The coalition includes Governor Charlie Baker; House Speaker Robert DeLeo; Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh; Attorney General Maura Healey; Members of Congress Joe Kennedy, III, Stephen Lynch, Nikki Tsongas and William Keating; Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley and the Roman Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts; the Massachusetts Hospital Association; the Massachusetts Medical Society; and the Massachusetts Municipal Association

A survey conducted by AIM earlier this year indicates that employers oppose Question 4 by a wide margin.

Sixty-two percent of employers said they would vote “No” on the pot legalization referendum due to appear on the November 1 ballot. Thirty-eight percent were in favor.

The proposed ballot law would authorize individuals 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of marijuana outside of their home and up to ten ounces of marijuana in their residences. It calls for taxes on marijuana sales and creates a Cannabis Control Commission to handle regulation and licensing.

If approved, the new law would take effect on December 15.

“We’re not surprised by the poll results given the concerns being expressed to us by member employers,” said John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

“How will an employer respond to a worker operating heavy equipment on a job site under the influence of marijuana? Many jobs, particularly those in safety-sensitive fields like transportation or manufacturing, must adhere to federal regulations that still prohibit the use of any substance that creates impairment.”

In fact, no breathalyzer-type technology exists to measure the degree of impairment suffered by a marijuana user. Question 4 not only fails to establish an enforceable legal standard as exists in other states, but also fails to establish a standard by which employers may terminate or discipline an employee who may have used marijuana and could be a safety risk on the job.

The potential consequences are significant.

In Colorado, which legalized medical marijuana in 2010 and recreational marijuana in 2012, marijuana-related traffic deaths increased by 154 percent between 2006 and 2014. Emergency room hospital visits that were “likely related” to marijuana increased by 77 percent from 2011 to 2014; and drug-related suspensions/expulsions increased 40 percent from school years 2008/2009 to 2013/2014, according to a September 2015 report by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Traffic Area, a collaboration of federal, state and local drug enforcement agencies.

Recent surveys have also indicated an increase in general marijuana use when states approve the legalization of marijuana. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, between 2012 and 2013 (when marijuana was legalized but states had yet to implement a regulatory framework) the percentage of adults who reported using marijuana jumped by more than 20 percent in Washington and Colorado.

Employers remain concerned that much of the increased marijuana usage in these states has come from high-potency edibles - THC-infused candy bars, gummies, cookies and soda – many packaged to look like candy and snacks. Almost half of all marijuana sales in Colorado, which was the first state to legalize, now come from edibles and concentrates.

The appeal of edible marijuana products to teen-agers is an issue for medical and behavior health organizations like the Massachusetts chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and the Association for Behavioral Healthcare.

“The research shows that marijuana poses a risk for the young brain — those 25 and under — that is predisposed to emotional and mental health issues,” said NAMI Mass Executive Director Laurie Martinelli.

Marijuana legalization is among a handful of November ballot questions with implications for employers. AIM favors a proposal to lift the cap on charter schools and opposes questions that would end the use of Common Core educational standards and impose de-facto government price controls on hospitals.

AIM also opposes a proposed constitutional amendment that would impose a 4 percent surtax on income more than $1 million that could reach the ballot by 2018.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Ballot Questions

Employers Back More Charter Schools

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Oct 11, 2016 7:30:00 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts member-employers favor by a two-to-one margin expanding the number of charter schools in the commonwealth, according to an AIM survey released this morning.

Education.jpgQuestion Two on the November 8 statewide ballot will ask voters whether to lift the current cap on charter schools. AIM supports raising the cap and has endorsed a “yes” vote on Question Two.

Sixty-eight percent of 107 employers who responded to a special question on the September AIM Business Confidence Index Survey said the state needs more charter schools. Thirty-two percent believe Massachusetts should not permit the creation of more charters.

Current law allows no more than 120 charter schools to operate in Massachusetts and seventy eight charters are now active. About 40,000 students, or a little more than 4 percent of Massachusetts elementary and secondary students, attend charter schools. The Education Department estimates that another 34,000 students are on waiting lists.

A "Yes" vote on Question 2 would give the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education the authority to lift the cap, allowing up to 12 new charter schools or expansions of existing charters each year. Priority would be given to charters that open in lower-performing districts.

Employers who support Question Two cite strong academic performance at charters, the value of competition and the ability of charters to innovate as reasons to lift the cap.

“Schools that have less government involvement, less union involvement and greater competition clearly have a better chance of achieving excellence than an entity run by the government,” one employer commented.

Opponents of charter expansion express concern about the potential siphoning of financial support for existing public schools.

“This is the time to invest and fund more to public education than to take money away,” said another employer.

Katherine Holahan, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM, said employer support for charters reflects persistent concern about the shortage of workers with the skills needed for the global knowledge economy.

“Employers are accustomed to innovation. They value it in all areas of business, so it’s only logical that that extends to the education of Massachusetts’ future work force,” Holahan said.

“Charter schools can provide the innovative educational opportunities that encourage students interested in diverse fields of study. As our members face increasing challenges to finding qualified workers, they are looking to a variety of sources to find capable, qualified employees at all skill levels.”

Employers also seem swayed by the statistics about charter-school performance. In Boston, for example, the average yearly academic growth for charter-school students was more than four times that of their traditional school peers in reading. In math, the academic growth was more than six times greater.

Topics: Massachusetts employers, Education

Baker: Israel Mission to Emphasize Cybersecurity, Digital Health

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Oct 6, 2016 3:50:22 PM

The upcoming Massachusetts trade mission to Israel will emphasize cybersecurity and digital health, two industries in which Governor Charlie Baker says the commonwealth has an opportunity to become a powerful worldwide player.

International2016.jpgBaker told more than 150 business leaders and diplomats at the 2016 AIM Global Trade Symposium this morning that cybersecurity and digital health are related because digitally driven insulin pumps and other medical devices must be invulnerable to software hackers.

“Cybersecurity will become the prerequisite for digital health,” Baker said during a keynote speech at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.

“When we get onto the idea of medical devices designed to monitor health status…the whole idea of breach in something like that is not a shrug-the-shoulders kind of moment.”

The governor said Massachusetts remains well positioned to increase exports because of significant upgrades to the infrastructure for moving products from the Bay State to overseas destinations by sea and by air. He noted the expansion of direct overseas flights at Logan International Airport, the dredging of Boston Harbor, and the expansion of the Connelly Terminal in Boston as important steps to ensure that Massachusetts employers will continue to have access to foreign markets.

The AIM Symposium honored three Massachusetts companies with Global Trade Awards for excellence in international business - REXA of West Bridgewater, L-3 Security & Detection Systems of Woburn, and Riverdale Mills Corporation of Northbridge.

“International trade plays a pivotal role in the health of the Massachusetts economy” said Richard Lord, President and CEO of AIM.

“That is why we are delighted to honor the achievements of these local winners, who set the standard for global business. These firms are making a significant contribution to Massachusetts’s reputation as a world trade leader. ”

Employers and academics at the Symposium agreed that uncertainty hangs over international commerce in the form of a strong dollar, weakness in key export markets, the impending exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union and a rising tide of protectionism both in the U.S. and abroad. Several companies reported that the rising dollar and falling shipping costs are bringing new, low-cost competitors into many overseas markets.

“The uncertainty level has certainly gone up in the past several years,” said, Ravi Ramamurti, Distinguished Professor, Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business, who led a panel discussion on “Tough Times for Trade.”

He added that the slowing growth in Europe and Asia appears to be structural rather than cyclical in nature.

The effects of currency shifts and other factors vary widely depending on industry, geography and the ability of a particular business to adapt.

“Volatility creates opportunity,” said Charlie Cunnion, Director of Global Transportation for International Forest Products LLC, the largest exporter in New England.

“When things are difficult, that’s when we shine the best,”

Topics: International Trade, AIM International Business Council, Charlie Baker

Employer Confidence Rebounds in September

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Oct 4, 2016 9:17:07 AM

Business confidence broke a three-month slide during September as Massachusetts employers, particularly in the service sector, discovered newfound optimism in their own business operations.

BCI.September.2016.jpgThe Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index (BCI) rose 1.8 points to 55.9 last month, the same level recorded 12 months earlier. The increase was driven by a 3.1-point surge in the Company Index, which reflects overall business conditions at employer companies, and similar jumps in readings based on employment and sales.

The uptick came as the Federal Reserve continued to suggest that the economy is strong enough to raise interest rates before the end of the year.

“Employers remain ambivalent about both the U.S. and national economies ahead of the presidential election, but companies clearly have regained a sense of buoyancy about their own futures,” said Michael A. Tyler, CFA, Chief Investment Officer, Eastern Bank Wealth Management and a member of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors (BEA).

“Large increases in the sales and employment indexes bode well for a Massachusetts economy that already enjoys a 3.9 percent unemployment rate.”

The AIM Index, based on a survey of Massachusetts employers, has appeared monthly since July 1991. It is calculated on a 100-point scale, with 50 as neutral; a reading above 50 is positive, while below 50 is negative. The Index reached its historic high of 68.5 on two occasions in 1997-98, and its all-time low of 33.3 in February 2009.

The index has remained above 50 since October 2013.

Constituent Indicators Mixed

The sub-indices based on selected questions or categories of employer were mixed during September.

The Massachusetts Index, assessing business conditions within the commonwealth, shed 0.3 points during the month, but gained 2.3 points over the year to 57.0. The U.S. Index of national business conditions remained slightly pessimistic, dropping 0.4 points to 49.2, 1.4 points lower than its level of a year ago.

Employers have been more optimistic about the Massachusetts economy than about the national economy for 77 consecutive months.

The Current Index, which assesses overall business conditions at the time of the survey, increased 2.3 points to 55.7 while the Future Index, measuring expectations for six months out, rose 1.1 points to 56.0. The future view is a point higher than it was in September 2015.

Operational Views Strengthen

The 3.1-point increase in the Company Index reflected a surge of 3.8 points in the Sales Index to 58.1 and a 1.9-point jump in the Employment Index to 54.5. The AIM survey found that nearly 39 percent of respondents reported adding staff during the past six months while 19 percent reduced employment. Expectations for the next six months were stable – 38 percent hiring and only 10 percent downsizing.

Non-manufacturing companies maintain a significantly brighter outlook than manufacturers. The overall Business Confidence Index among non-manufacturers was 61.1 compared to 50.9 for manufacturing companies.

“The uptick in employer assessments of their own prospects comes as welcome news following three consecutive months of declines. At the same time, manufacturers continue to struggle with economic weakness in key export markets,” said Paul Bolger, President, Massachusetts Capital Resource Company and a BEA member.

The Economy and the Election

AIM’s President and CEO Richard C. Lord, also a BEA member, said the 2016 presidential election has become a referendum on the degree to which the economic recovery is benefitting middle-income Americans.

“Peter Canellos, Executive Editor of Politico, told the AIM Executive Forum on September 16 that the legacy of the 2016 campaign will be an ongoing debate about the economic future of blue-collar, middle-class workers who have not felt the benefits of the recovery. It is incumbent upon all of us to create an economic that encourages the development of jobs across all sectors to train people effectively for those jobs,” Lord said.

Topics: AIM Business Confidence Index, Massachusetts economy, Economy

Video Blog | Stop & Shop Turns Waste to Energy

Posted by Michele Slafkosky on Oct 3, 2016 3:15:57 PM

The Stop & Shop New England Division of Ahold USA will receive one of six inaugural AIM Sustainability Awards on October 24 for its innovative, state-of-the-art, Green Energy Facility in Freetown that uses anaerobic digestion to convert inedible food into clean energy.  The process produces up to 40 percent of the energy for Stop & Shop's 1.1 million square-foot adjacent distribution center. 


AIM will present Sustainability Awards at each of four regional celebrations in October. The events are open, free of charge, to AIM member employers.

Register | Worcester

Register | Springfield

Register | Foxboro

Register | Lawrence

Topics: Energy, Sustainability, AIM Sustainability Roundtable

Beacon Hill Debrief: How Did Employers Do?

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 29, 2016 2:45:43 PM

AIM Executive Vice President John Regan recently discussed the 2015-2016 Beacon Hill legislative session and what it meant for employers on Comcast Newsmakers.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts employers

Which Issues Matter to You? Take the AIM Issues Survey

Posted by John Regan on Sep 26, 2016 7:30:00 AM

The two major candidates for president will debate tonight. Will they address issues that matter to employers?

statehouse.jpgThe Massachusetts Legislature will kick off its 2017-2018 session in January. Will lawmakers identify the public-policy challenges that most concern Massachusetts employers as they seek to grow, create jobs and generate economic opportunity?

Employers have an important role to play in the debate over how to improve the Massachusetts economy. How can you ensure that your opinions and good ideas are heard? Start by participating in the biennial Issues Survey from Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

The commonwealth’s largest and most powerful employer association wants to hear from you so it can accurately represent the interests of employers both large and small before Massachusetts state government. Which issues pose a threat to your business? What steps could Massachusetts take to improve the business climate? How can Massachusetts assure its global competitiveness in a world in which economic growth is becoming ever more concentrated?

AIM will use responses from the Issues Survey to construct a pro-growth Legislative Agenda for the 2017-2018 Beacon Hill session. Legislators rely upon the AIM Legislative Agenda to identify the issues of importance to the Massachusetts employer community.

All responses will remain confidential.

Why participate? As AIM’s Chairman Dan Kenary remarked at this year’s Annual Meeting:

“The late House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s maxim that ‘all politics is local’ has never been truer that it is today. And if all politics is local, the employer community represents a sleeping giant with enormous potential to drive sound public policy from the bottom up.  Call it entrepreneurial populism - those of us who risk everything to employ our neighbors in Boston, Worcester, Springfield or more than 348 other communities in Massachusetts must tell our stories to the representatives, senators and member of Congress in whose districts we operate.”

We stand at a singular moment in the history of Massachusetts as the forces of political moderation struggle to hold back furious attacks from progressive insurgents who see business and employers as the problem rather than a force for good. The ability of employers to ensure economic stability and continued opportunity rests entirely on their willingness of individuals to add their voices to the public debate.

AIM will publish its Legislative Agenda in January, immediately after President and Chief Executive Officer Richard C. Lord delivers his annual State of Massachusetts Business address.

AIM represents the interests of 4,000 companies from every sector of the economy.

Take the Issues Survey


Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Massachusetts employers

Power and Collaboration on Beacon Hill

Posted by Rick Lord on Sep 21, 2016 4:27:48 PM

An article in yesterday’s Boston Globe, Business lobby holds new sway on Beacon Hill, accurately reports that Associated Industries of Massachusetts exerts unique influence on Beacon Hill on behalf of employers.

statehousedome.jpgWe do. That’s why your company is a member.

Unfortunately, the article also distorts AIM’s position on an important piece of legislation - the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act – and contains a glaring factual error. I feel it is important to set the record straight.

The article reports that AIM opposed The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act during the 2015-2016 legislative session. But the article does not tell you that our opposition reflected legitimate concern among employers that the legislation duplicates existing law and provides an applicant or employee with the power to reject multiple and reasonable offers of accommodation by an employer.

The issue is similar to the recent debate over wage equity, in which AIM initially opposed a flawed bill meant to accomplish a goal we all supported. Far from exercising “veto power” over the House of Representatives, as one senator asserted to the Globe, AIM was able to work with House Speaker Robert DeLeo and the attorney general to develop an acceptable piece of legislation that we were ultimately proud to support and that Governor Charlie Baker signed.

The Globe article fails to mention that AIM has signaled the Legislature that we are willing to enter into the same type of negotiations on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. AIM executives told reporter Frank Phillips on several occasions that the association supports fair treatment of pregnant women and is open to discussions to eliminate provisions of the bill that would place an undue burden on employers.

The article also inaccurately reports that Cape Air, the business owned by retiring Senator Dan Wolf, D-Harwich, is a member of Associated Industries of Massachusetts. For the record, Cape Air has not been a member of AIM since 2003.

As member employers you should be proud of that AIM represents your interests with unparalleled skill and integrity. You should also acknowledge that the Massachusetts House of Representatives is developing workable legislation for the people of Massachusetts by working collaboratively with the business community.

The bottom line of the Globe article is that no organization is more prominent in public policy debates that AIM.

Please contact me if you have any questions about the article or AIM’s positions.


Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts senate, Massachusetts House of Representatives

Three Companies Honored with Global Trade Awards

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Sep 19, 2016 7:30:00 AM

A global maker of security detection systems, a company that keeps pipelines flowing and a major producer of wire mesh are the winners of the 21st Annual Global Trade Awards from the Associated Industries of Massachusetts International Business Council (AIM-IBC).

IBC.jpgThe 2016 Global Trade honorees announced this morning include REXA of West Bridgewater, L-3 Security & Detection Systems of Woburn, and Riverdale Mills Corporation of Northbridge. The awards recognize Massachusetts companies and organizations of all sizes that have demonstrated excellence in international trade.

“International trade plays a pivotal role in the health of the Massachusetts economy” said Richard Lord, President and CEO of AIM.

“That is why we are delighted to honor the achievements of these local winners, who set the standard for global business. We applaud their ability to be strategic and differentiate themselves to serve industries overseas.  These firms are making a significant contribution to Massachusetts’s reputation as a world trade leader. ”

The three Global Trade Awards winners will be honored during the AIM Global Trade Symposium & Awards Breakfast at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, October 6, from 8-11 a.m. Those in attendance will hear from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and a panel of business leaders about ways Massachusetts can succeed in a rapidly-changing global business world.

Ambassador’s Award - REXA
West Bridgewater

REXA designs and manufactures superior actuators, a device used by operators of pipelines, power plants and hydro dams to regulate the flow of water, steam or petroleum through industrial pipeline valves. Using innovative motion control technology, REXA actuators enable operators to open, close or adjust large valves from remote locations for normal usage or, in case of  emergency situations, to avoid spills or contamination. REXA technology is used in power generation, oil & gas, mining, metals, water and waste industries. A Japanese-owned company founded in 1981, REXA’s products are in high demand globally, with 40 percent of their products distributed internationally.

Diplomat’s Award - L-3 Security & Detection Systems
Woburn, MA

L-3 Security & Detection Systems (L-3 SDS) is a leading supplier of security screening solutions, with more than 50,000 systems deployed and supported around the globe. Founded in 1986, L-3 SDS designs and manufactures cutting-edge products for secure facilities using advanced technologies such as 3-D computed tomography; automated, conventional and high-energy X-ray; radiation detection; active millimeter wave imaging; metal detection and more.   L-3 SDS engineers have improved airport x-ray scanners’ threat detection capabilities across the globe.

Chairman’s Award - Riverdale Mills Corporation
Northbridge, MA

Founded in 1980, Riverdale Mills Corporation is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of high-quality engineered, galvanized and PVC coated wire mesh fabrics. Riverdale Mills produces more than 3,500 sizes of welded wire mesh for the marine, aquaculture, security, farming and construction industries at its sole manufacturing facility in Massachusetts.

Riverdale’s marquee product, Aquamesh®, is a durable, rust proof and corrosion resistant wire mesh that is specifically designed to withstand the harshest subsea conditions. Aquamesh® is now used to build approximately 80 percent of all lobster traps fished in North America and Europe. Riverdale Mills WireWall® high security wire mesh fencing is used to protect the MIT Nuclear Reactor Lab, U.S. Embassy in Panama City, Port of San Francisco, Toyota’s manufacturing plant in Mexico, and the Vancouver Transit System.

The company is also one of the world’s leading producers of specialty PVC powder coating

The AIM International Business Council helps Massachusetts employers engage in international trade and expand their global business activities. Through seminars, referrals, and e-newsletters, the AIM International Business Council provides companies with the resources they need.  For more, visit

Attend the Global Trade Symposium

Topics: International Trade, AIM International Business Council

Politico Editor: 2016 Election Highlights Blue-Collar Concerns

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Sep 16, 2016 2:18:05 PM

Donald Trump has more social-media followers than the number of votes normally needed to be elected president of the United States.

It’s a statistic that Peter Canellos, Managing Editor of Politico, says helps to explain why the media coverage of the 2016 presidential election, and the election itself, is different from any other in history.

“These changes are themselves a major factor in the 2016 presidential campaign,” Canellos told more than 250 business leaders at the AIM Executive Forum this morning.

“We can’t establish the political dialog, as we did in the past, but we cannot ignore it.”

Recalling his work covering the 2002 presidential race when he was often the only reporter present when Bill Clinton and other candidates spoke, Canellos said that every word a candidate says today is recorded on a dozen iPhones, often held by representatives of the opposing campaigns, and posted online before any formal media outlet can post the story.

“Even if a news organization tries to exercise restraint, or tries to make decision about the news, the conversation is already galloping ahead without them,” said Canellos, who spent 26 years at the The Boston Globe before moving to Politico.

He acknowledged that many people were uncomfortable with the degree of control that “media mandarins” from The New York Times and other establishment publications once exerted over the narrative of presidential campaigns. The new reality of social media, he said, has recast the role of reporters to one of monitoring the veracity of campaign statements, tracking the connection between money and politics and looking at some of the issues “that candidates seek to avoid.”

Canellos believes the two major political parties will survive an election with two relatively unpopular nominees, but that each will change significantly.

“If you look at the history of the country the two parties’ positions have shifted dramatically. Who would have thought that the Democrats would be the party of Wall Street now? And the migration of working- class blue-collar voters to the Republican party seems to have accelerated strongly with the Trump nomination.”

The Democrats, according to Canellos, will have to sort out whether their future lies with the insurgent wing represented by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, or the establishment block led by Hillary Clinton.

“On the Republican side there will be quite an identity crisis. Even if Trump is elected, there will be questions within the Republican party about who they should be and what they should be,” he said.

Canellos said that early predictions that Democrats would regain control of the U.S. Senate appear to have been premature. Control of the Senate is now “a 50-50 proposition” as senators such as John McCain who trailed badly in the polls during the summer appear to be making up ground.

He believes the long-term legacy of the 2016 presidential election will be a sustained debate over the plight of middle-class workers, especially in traditional manufacturing areas now struggling to find new ways to grow.

“Trump has played   a role in putting that constituency front and center...Even some of the Democratic proposals like free college tuition and retraining through community colleges are responding to that constituency."

Topics: Economy, AIM Executive Forum, Policy

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