Congress: Approve Trade Pacts with South Korea, Colombia, Panama

Posted by Kristen Rupert on Oct 12, 2011 10:53:00 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts is urging the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to support free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama when they come up for votes as early as today on Capitol Hill.

International TradeAIM President Richard C. Lord told Massachusetts members of the U.S. House of Representatives that their support “for these job-creating, budget-neutral trade agreements is critical to Massachusetts employers and employees.” He noted that Bay State manufacturers exported nearly $900 million worth of products last year to Korea alone.

Both U.S. senators from Massachusetts, John Kerry and Scott Brown, support the free trade agreements.

“The pending agreements will create thousands of Massachusetts jobs and billions of dollars in new U.S. exports within a few years. The agreements will help Massachusetts companies save millions of dollars, because most tariffs will disappear immediately,” Lord said.

The House and Senate votes will cap nearly five years of negotiations on the deals with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama. The agreements have been hung up over differences between the Bush and Obama Administrations and Congressional Democrats and Republicans over worker rights and safety in Colombia, and concerns over U.S. workers who might lose their jobs as a result of less-expensive goods from the trading nations.

The Obama Administration renegotiated portions of the Colombia deal and Congress has agreed to pass an aid program for displaced workers called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) along with the trade agreements.  The Senate has already passed TAA. 

Lord told the House delegation that the agreement will benefit both manufacturing and service companies in Massachusetts, along with small businesses often shut out of foreign markets by high tariffs and other barriers.

“Fundamentally, these agreements are about making trade fair. The U.S. market is largely open to imports from around the world, but other countries continue to slap steep tariffs on our exports. These agreements will create a level playing field for American workers by eliminating the barriers U.S. exporters face in these three markets,” Lord wrote.

Some quick facts about the importance of Korea to the Massachusetts economy:

  1. Eighty percent of tariffs paid by Massachusetts companies will disappear immediately under the FTA; 95 percent of tariffs will be gone in five years.
  2. Massachusetts companies such as Acushnet, EMD and Millipore that do significant business in Korea will save millions of dollars.
  3. FTA contains strong protection for intellectual property and software.
  4. Korea and the US maintain balanced trade relationship, unlike the relationship between the US and China.

Topics: International Trade, U.S. Congress, AIM International Business Council

Proposed Rules Would Limit Advice to Employers on Union Issues

Posted by Mike Rudman on Sep 26, 2011 11:28:00 AM

The U.S. Department of Labor has proposed rules that would force employers to disclose detailed information about any lawyer, association or consultant that helps the company communicate with workers about labor-union issues.

Advice ExemptionAssociated Industries of Massachusetts strongly objected to the proposed rules in comments filed with the Labor Department last week. AIM believes the new rules are part of a radical attempt by the Obama Administration to shift the balance of private-sector labor relations, in defiance of the neutral policies established by Congress over many decades.

“The proposed rules will interfere impermissibly with the attorney-client relationship, will interfere with the right of trade associations to communicate with their employer members, and will interfere with the ability of employers to obtain much needed advice from their peers, their lawyers and experienced labor relations consultants,” AIM and scores of other business groups said in comments filed last week by the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace.

Sandy Reynolds, Executive Vice President of the AIM Employer’s Resource Group, said the rule change would be particularly damaging for small companies, which rely on outside advice because they cannot afford to keep in-house labor relations consultants.

“AIM regularly helps Massachusetts employers create respectful work environments that make labor unions unnecessary.  The Department of Labor rules would discourage employers from obtaining that advice by creating a mountain of bureaucratic disclosure paperwork,” Reynolds said.

The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) has for 50 years exempted from disclosure advice that an employer may receive from an outside consultant about communicating with employees about union issues. The proposed rule change would narrow the definition of “advice” and require public disclosure if the consultant provides material or communications, or engages in actions on behalf of an employer “that, in whole or in part, have the object directly or indirectly to persuade employees concerning their rights to organize or bargain collectively.”

So when a consultant prepares or provides a persuasive script, letter, videotape, or other material or communication, including electronic and digital media for use by an employer in communicating with employees, the “advice” exemption does not apply and the duty to report is triggered. Training or directing supervisors and other management representatives on labor matters would also require disclosure.

AIM believes the responsibility to make such significant changes to the law rests with Congress rather than the Department of Labor. The association also believes that the rule change, combined with moves by the National Labor Relations Board to restrict employer communications during union elections, represents a thinly veiled attempt by the administration to circumvent the will of Congress and implement a “back door” version of the failed Employee Free Choice Act.

Topics: U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Congress, Organized Labor

U.S. House Passes Version of 1099 Repeal

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 3, 2011 4:49:00 PM

The United States House of Representatives voted 314-112 today to repeal a provision of the health reform law that would have required businesses to file 1099 tax forms for every vendor that sold them more than $600 worth of goods and services.

Seventy six House Democrats joined a unanimous group of Republicans in supporting H.R. 4, which would offset lost revenue from the repeal by increasing the amount of health insurance subsidies that could be recaptured in cases where a family's income exceed certain thresholds.

Freshman Congressman William Keating was the only member of the Massachusetts delegation to vote on favor of the bill.

The Senate approved a separate version of the 1099 repeal on February 2. House and Senate will now attempt to reconcile the different revenue offset plans contained in the two versions. President Obama has indicated that he supports a 1099 repeal, but has problems with the House bill.

The 1099 mandate, due to take effect in 2013, would require more than 30 million U.S. companies that currently only have to tell the IRS the value of services they purchase from vendors to also report the value of goods and merchandise they purchase. Lawmakers added the 1099 reporting footnote to the federal health reform bill in an effort to fund a portion of the massive overhaul.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts believes the provision would saddle employers with significant administrative and accounting expense at a time when many are already struggling with the soft economy.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Health Care Reform, AIM, U.S. Congress, U.S. House of Representatives

Arizona Tragedy Prompts Call to Thank Elected Officials

Posted by Rick Lord on Jan 10, 2011 12:18:00 PM

In the face of the tragic attempt to assassinate Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on Saturday, Associated Industries of Massachusetts is today asking Massachusetts employers to consider a simple expression of support for democratic civility. We ask you to send an email to your state representative or senator, your member of Congress, or to the governor, and thank them for their service.

The pervasive cynicism that swirls around modern politics often obscures the fact that running for public office represents an act of courage and sacrifice. Men and women who place their names on the election ballot set themselves in a uniquely personal way before the judgment of the general public. They willingly take their most fundamental ideas, beliefs and personal histories and argue them in a court of public opinion where even successful candidates know that their views may not carry the day and that thousands of people would rather have someone else doing the job.

And, on rare occasions it seems, one of those people takes electoral decisions into his own hands with a gun and kills six people.

AIM, its member employers, its supporters and the people who disagree with us depend upon the opportunity for open and respectful debate as we work with legislators to improve the economy and create opportunity for the citizens of Massachusetts. We call upon other business groups, organized labor and individual citizens to join us today in acknowledging our elected officials and letting them know that our agreements or disagreements do not diminish our commitment to the fundamental principles of representative democracy.

It is ironic that the shooting of Representative Giffords, Federal Judge John Roll and 16 others came three days after the peaceful transfer of power in the United States House of Representatives from Democratic to Republican control while Democrats peacefully maintained a majority in the Senate. Representative Giffords was among the lawmakers who read a portion of the U.S. Constitution during ceremonies on Wednesday. Let us take at least a day to add our voices to hers in support of the democratic process and find hope in the words of Massachusetts native John Adams who noted that "the happiness of society is the end of government."

AIM is pleased to offer you the opportunity to send a standard email to your elected officials through our AIMVoice system. 


Topics: Massachusetts Politics, Massachusetts Legislature, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, U.S. Congress, Deval Patrick

Both Massachusetts Senators, Two House Members, Back Tax Compromise

Posted by Brian Gilmore on Dec 17, 2010 1:50:00 PM

Both U.S. Senators from Massachusetts and two members of the Bay State’s House delegation this week supported a compromise $801 billion tax package that will help employers by extending the federal research and development tax credit and a provision that would allow businesses to write off their investments in equipment.

Tax BillSenators John Kerry and Scott Brown were joined by Representatives William Delahunt and Niki Tsongas in voting for the measure, which will extend for two years the Bush-era tax reductions and add 13 months of unemployment benefits. The remaining members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation – Representatives Michael Capuano, Barney Frank, Stephen Lynch, Edward Markey, James McGovern, Richard Neal, John Olver and John Tierney – were opposed.

President Barack Obama, who developed the compromise package with Congressional Republicans, is expected to sign the bill as early as today.

Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, noted that extension of the Bush tax cuts will provide additional capital to the many Massachusetts business owners who operate as subchapter-S corporations and pay the personal income tax rate.

“The president and Congress deserve tremendous credit for passing legislation that will stimulate job growth and advance the economic recovery here in Massachusetts,” Lord said.

The federal research and development tax credit is a complex incentive that can amount to 20 percent for companies that existed during the 1980s and ratchet down to 7 percent for companies founded later.  The credit has been a sort of orphan among economic stimulus measures – it has never been made permanent, has lapsed four times and been renewed more than a dozen times.

Both the R&D credit and the expensing provisions benefit key sectors of the Massachusetts economy. Durable goods make up almost $24 billion of the $34 billion in gross domestic product generated by Massachusetts manufacturers, while a recent study by AIM and the University of Massachusetts underscored the importance of research and innovation in allowing Bay State defense contractors to triple the value of their business in the past 15 years.

Topics: Senator John Kerry, U.S. Senate, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, U.S. Congress, U.S. House of Representatives, Taxes, Senator Scott Brown

Tax Agreement Will Benefit Massachusetts Employers

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Dec 8, 2010 4:51:00 PM

The compromise reached by President Obama and Congressional Republicans to extend Bush-era tax cuts contains several provisions that will benefit the capital investment and innovation that drive the Massachusetts economy.

research and developmentThe agreement includes a two-year extension of the federal research and development tax credit, which expired last year, and an extension of a provision that would allow businesses to write off their investments in equipment.  Extension of the Bush tax cuts will also provide additional capital to the many Massachusetts business owners who operate as subchapter-S corporations and pay the personal income tax rate. 

Unemployment benefits will be extended at their current level for 13 months, through the end of 2011, under the compromise.

“Everybody gets a little bit of something they’ve been looking for,’’ says Brian R. Gilmore, Executive Vice President of Associated Industries of Massachusetts. “We’re better off having movement instead of deadlock.’’

The federal research and development tax credit is a complex incentive that can amount to 20 percent for companies that existed during the 1980s and ratchet down to 7 percent for companies founded later.  The credit has been a sort of orphan among economic stimulus measures – it has never been made permanent, has lapsed four times and been renewed more than a dozen times.

Both the R&D credit and the expensing provisions benefit key sectors of the Massachusetts economy. Durable goods make up almost $24 billion of the $34 billion in gross domestic product generated by Massachusetts manufacturers, while a recent study by AIM and the University of Massachusetts underscored the importance of research and innovation in allowing Bay State defense contractors to triple the value of their business in the past 15 years.

 “We are concerned about the deficit,’’ Gilmore said, “but we really have got to put a premium in jobs and job development. It’s the only way we’re going to pay off the deficit.’’

Economists also note that other countries maintain much higher research and development tax credits, which hinders the large number of companies in Boston that compete globally.

Still the Boston Globe reported today that the compromise tax plan has few supporters among the Massachusetts Congressional delegation.

“I strongly disagree,” Representative Barney Frank, a Newton Democrat, told the newspaper. He said he would vote against the deal, although he also said it likely had enough votes to pass. “You have overwhelming Republican support and enough Democrats to do it,” he said.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Massachusetts economy, U.S. Congress, Taxes

Brown to Become First Massachusetts Recipient of Manufacturing Award

Posted by Brian Gilmore on Nov 17, 2010 2:07:00 PM

Executives of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) may want to bring a map with them when they arrive in Massachusetts Friday to present the Manufacturing Legislative Excellence Award to Senator Scott Brown.

ScottBrownIt’s been a long time since a member of Congress from Massachusetts has earned NAM’s top award for supporting policies that enhance the competitiveness of American manufacturers. In fact, the presentation to Senator Brown at the conclusion of his speech to the AIM Executive Forum Friday will mark the first time ever that NAM has given the award to a Bay State lawmaker.

“We’re delighted to be coming to Massachusetts to recognize Senator Brown for his 100 percent voting record in support of economic growth and opportunity,” says Tiffany N. Adams, Vice President of Public Affairs for the 11,000-member NAM, which instituted the award in 1998.

The NAM will recognize Senator Brown for his pro-business votes on nine issues that came up after he won a special election to the Senate in January to fill the seat formerly held by Edward M. Kennedy. The votes included support for repeal of the onerous 1099 reporting rules in health care reform, continued access by manufacturers to reasonably priced over-the-counter derivatives and ensuring Congressional oversight of attempts to regulate greenhouse gas.

NAM will present Manufacturing Legislative Excellence Awards to 221 senators and representatives for their votes in the 111th Congress. Members of the House and Senate who vote in support of manufacturing at least 70 percent of the time earn the NAM award.

Senator Brown’s voting record in Washington is consistent with the one he assembled as a Massachusetts state senator prior to his January election. He and several other Republicans posted a top pro-business ranking of 67 percent on the 2007-2008 AIM Legislative Scorecard.

AIM President and Chief Executive Officer Richard C. Lord said that AIM and NAM work together closely on many important issues, so it makes sense for Senator Brown to receive the award at the AIM Executive Forum.

“We’re gratified that a Massachusetts senator has finally won national recognition for supporting jobs and economic growth. Let’s hope this is the first of many such NAM awards to be given in Massachusetts,” Lord said.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, U.S. Congress, Manufacturing, Massachusetts Manufacturing, Senator Scott Brown

'Paycheck Fairness Act' Anything But Fair to Employers

Posted by Brian Gilmore on Sep 21, 2010 10:22:00 AM

The so-called Paycheck Fairness Act now pending on Congress is anything but fair to employers working in good faith to provide opportunity to all employees.

Paycheck Fairness ActSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) signaled recently that he will re-introduce the long-pending Paycheck Fairness Act (S.372) before the Senate adjourns for mid-term elections. The House approved the measure last spring.   

The legislation would allow unprecedented penalties of unlimited punitive and compensatory damages in cases of suspected pay discrimination. Employers of all sizes would be exposed to increased litigation and a spate of frivolous class-action suits even when they act with a reasonable belief that their pay policies are lawful.

AIM opposes the Paycheck Fairness Act. Here’s why:

  • It would remove the Equal Pay Act caps on punitive and compensatory damages and would apply punitive damages to all cases.
  • The bill would also eliminate a key justification for pay disparities by requiring that any difference in pay be substantiated as a “business necessity.” Additionally, these defenses would have to be based on “bona fide” factors and would prevent employers from paying employees in different localities different rates.
  • This legislation would make it easier for plaintiffs’ attorneys to file class-action suits against employers by requiring participants to “opt-out” of equal pay class-action suits. Currently, claimants must “opt-in” to suits if they wish to be part of the class.
  • If passed into law, the Paycheck Fairness Act would require that the government collect information on employee wages and other data. This would also enable confidential salary information to be publicly shared with employees’ coworkers, competitors and others. In addition, the bill would allow the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to require employers to report sensitive wage information that may be publicly disclosed. 

We believe that existing laws protect workers from gender discrimination while allowing employers the necessary freedom to adopt the best competitive business practices available to retain and attract employees. Expanding punitive damages will not prevent actual instances of discrimination; instead it would encourage the filing of claims to the benefit of plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Employers who are concerned about the impact the bill will have on their respective operations are urged to contact Senators Kerry and Brown and ask them to oppose the measure, and indicate that Senate should not act to expose employers to frivolous lawsuits or dictate business practices.

Topics: Paycheck Fairness Act, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Employment Law, Massachusetts employers, U.S. Congress

Will President's Health Reform Cure What Ails Employers?

Posted by Eileen McAnneny on Feb 23, 2010 2:30:00 PM

Will the health care reform plan announced yesterday by President Obama cure what ails desperate employers swamped by rising health insurance premiums?

Measured in terms of its potential to reduce the cost of health care and health insurance, I just don't see how it succeeds.

The White House estimates that the cost just to administer the bill would be $1 billion.  Add to that a host of new assessments that will be passed on to consumers and employers in the form of higher premiums - a $67 billion assessment  on health insurers, a $20 billion assessment on medical device manufacturers and a $33 billion assessment on pharmaceutical companies -  and prices  are unlikely to be lowered any time soon.

The President also proposes a new $2,000 per employee assessment on large employers (50 plus) whose employees do not have coverage (exempting the first 30 workers from the tax). And he affirms his support for taxing high-cost health insurance plans beginning in 2018, a provision that is sure to hit Massachusetts hard since residents here pay some of the highest costs for health insurance in the nation.

Are you afraid of what your premiums will look like in a few years yet? 

Continue Reading

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Health Care Reform, AIM, U.S. Congress, Health Insurance

What Will the Federal and State Jobs Bills Mean for Massachusetts Employers?

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Feb 23, 2010 9:26:00 AM

The $15 billion jobs bill due to be approved by the U.S. Senate today would create the first of several federal and state tax incentives that have been proposed for Massachusetts employers who hire jobless people. You can't tell the players without a program, so here's an update:

  • Federal Jobs Bill.
    Status: U.S. Senate is expected to pass today. Bill then goes to U.S. House of Representatives.
    Companies that hire unemployed people would receive an exemption from paying Social Security taxes on those workers for the remainder of 2010. Employers would also receive a $1,000 tax credit for each new worker who remains on the job at least one year.

  • State Job Creation Tax Credit.
    Status: Proposed by Governor Deval Patrick. Currently pending in the Massachusetts Legislature's Joint Committee on Revenue.
    Creates a $2,500 refundable tax credit on withholding tax for employers with 50 or fewer total employees who hire new full-time Massachusetts employees during the 12-month period beginning April 1, 2010.  Calculation of the net increase in the number of Massachusetts employees is based on the employer's number of Massachusetts employees as of March 31, 2010.  The credit is available to qualifying employers for each new full-time Massachusetts job created and sustained for at least one year. 

The federal jobs bill passed a key preliminary vote yesterday with the support of Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and four other Republicans. Senator Brown issued a statement about the vote:

"I came to Washington to be an independent voice, to put politics aside, and to do everything in my power to help create jobs for Massachusetts families. This Senate jobs bill is not perfect. I wish the tax cuts were deeper and broader, but I am voting for it because it contains measures that will help put people back to work.

"I was disappointed with the continuation of politics-as-usual in the drafting of this bill, as it was crafted behind closed doors, without transparency and accountability. I hope for improvements in that process going forward. All of us, Republicans and Democrats, have to work together to get our economy back on track. I hope my vote today is a strong step toward restoring bipartisanship in Washington."

Will these proposed tax incentives prompt your company to hire additional workers? We appreciate your comments.

Topics: Employers, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Economic Development, U.S. Congress, Deval Patrick, Taxes, Senator Scott Brown

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