Mellion: Small Businesses ‘Getting Hit from Every Single Direction’
BOSTON — The Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development held a hearing on Beacon Hill Tuesday on two proposed ballot questions that would raise the minimum wage, and guarantee workers employer-paid family or medical leave.
The first question would see the minimum wage raised from $11 per hour to $15 in single-dollar increments beginning in 2019. Tipped workers would also see an increase from $3.75 per hour to $9.
And the second question would guarantee workers 12 to 16 weeks of paid leave to care for sick family members or after the birth of a child, or up to 26 paid weeks for their own illness or injury.
Rob Mellion, President and CEO of the Bristol County Chamber of Commerce, testified against both ballot initiatives, saying small business owners have already had to deal with seeing the minimum wage raised to $11 per hour at the start of 2017.
"It's too many things coming at businesses at one time," Mellion told WBSM News. "These ballot initiatives or bills come into play as if they exist in a vacuum. When proponents speak on these issues, you'll hear them speak as if they will be a small increase on businesses, and nothing else on the world that impacts businesses will be in play."
Mellion said employers in Massachusetts have been experiencing double-digit increases to the cost of employer-paid health care insurance for the past four years, as well as contending with the highest electricity costs in the United States, one of the highest workers' compensation insurance rates, and one of the highest unemployment insurance rates.
He said that many are mistakenly thinking that "trickle-down" effect of the Trump economy is benefiting small businesses as much as large ones.
"That's a great talking point, except for the fact that small business people are not Google, they're not Fidelity, they're not BioGen," he said. "And they're the ones getting hit with all of these new increases. What's happening in the legislature, and happening with these ballot initiatives, is they're treating the hair salon, and the plumbing service, and the package store as if they had a large (human resources) division, as if they had millions of dollars to play with, and they don't."
"So you could make the argument that the Trump tax cuts are making it so businesses are flush. But that little store on South Main Street is not flush right now, and they're getting hit from every single direction, with no relief," he said.
Mellion said employer-paid family and medical leave would also be disastrous to small businesses in Massachusetts.
"That would be creating almost a $100-million dollar bureaucracy on the back of small businesses to create that new benefit," he said. "If we're going to do this, it's going to have an impact on the economy."
He said the state legislature needs to be especially careful, considering 2018 is an election year.
"Please take into account that many of your constituents are small business owners, and if you hurt them too badly, they're going to remember," he said.
Mellion also said what people don't take into account is that the groups pushing these ballot initiatives aren't always looking out for what's best for the state.
"Many of them are not from Massachusetts. Many of them are headquartered in Washington, D.C. or are headquartered in other places in the country," he said. "So what they're doing is, they're taking places like Massachusetts and using them as a test to see if there's traction on an issue. So what's driving all this is, we're the venue because it's so easy to create these initiatives, and it's hurting us as a result."