Menu

Blogs

How To Make Your Government Affairs Committee Work

ACCE Webmaster on Friday, October 24, 2008 at 6:53:00 pm 

Lumachi_2 Advocacy Advice from Shaun Lumachi

If I were ever to write a love story about the chamber of commerce industry, the protagonist would be a chamber of commerce committee. We love committees. It is the way we build consensus, get the work done, and create results. The opening paragraph of an 1884 article in the New York Times is a great example of our enduring love affair with committees:

Nytimes_5

The late inventor and General Motors Corporation's research chief Charles F. Kettering once quipped, “if you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it.†For all the disadvantages of a chamber of commerce committee, it is the process we know and use to get things done.  So, the following is a check list of what you should know, at a minimum, about starting or fine-tuning your action-oriented government affairs committee (GAC).

1) Control demand by constricting supply. Your GAC should have a limited amount of participation. I recommend no less than eight voting members and no more than twenty-one. Size of the committee should only be determined based upon demand; if you can secure twenty one active voting participants no matter the size of your chamber then seat twenty one. However, if you can only get eight, then go with eight. The bottom-line: do not dilute the value of the GAC by opening it up to every person in the world. Increase the GAC’s perceived value by limiting the supply of voting seats in order to maintain the demand for participation.

2) GAC members should be the best in your community. When forming GAC’s I always start off with this question: what business person in your community would be impossible to get to serve on a committee but if they agreed to serve would be the absolute best? Use a litmus test when deciding if they are the best: can they invest money; are they politically active or are they politically connected; do they understand the issues; and are they committed to being proactive; do they understand what is important to business? The bottom-line: get the best in the room. Do whatever it takes to get them in the room. Keep antagonists out of the room and build the committee on an environment of being proactive. Attract GAC members who sign the front of paychecks and do not seat elected officials and their representatives as voting members.

3) Results keep people in the room. The single problem chamber’s ask me to help solve is how do we keep volunteers engaged and active. In other words, how do we keep volunteers in the room? My answer: what advocacy issue did you accomplish recently? Nothing? Then why would anyone want to be a part of your government affairs effort! Your GAC meetings must be action orientated, not report oriented. Every agenda item must propose a taking a position on something. Simply bringing people together to hear reports from elected officials or reports on the latest and greatest is not enough. The bottom-line: you keep people engaged when you give them something to rally behind. Be action oriented so they understand that each month they are a part of making a decision on something that will impact your business community.

4) Your GAC agenda must adhere to the ethic of reciprocity. Confucius would say it another way, "Never impose a GAC agenda on others what you would not what for yourself." I recently received an emailed meeting agenda from a prominent regional government affairs organization (not a client of mine). The agenda was send the day before the meeting and included twenty-two attachments. Yes, 22 attachments. Do you have the time to read through 22 attachments of information? Who has that kind of time? I don’t. So I deleted the email and never attended the meeting. The bottom-line: every advocacy decision starts with a well prepared agenda. Combine all of your information into one document and summarize as much as you can. The key here is information management, not information overload.

5) Your effectiveness is in direct proportion to your efficiency. Your GAC’s justification for even existing is because it is effective. To be effective, you can’t bog down your process in bureaucracy on every single issue. Therefore, any decision that GAC makes must end at GAC, not your chamber board executive committee and then the full board of directors. The board must empower its GAC to take positions on issues that align with a board-approved platform of issues. If an issue does not align then the board must act.  However, the platform of issues should be flexible enough to limit issues from making it to the board for consideration. The GAC should be a work horse and not a recommending body. Update the board accordingly on GAC positions but do not put the GAC in a position of being strangled from reaching the point of action because “that decision needs to go to the board at its next meeting 5 weeks from now.†The bottom-line: your GAC must be the final voice on the issues so you can act smart and fast.

In the context of building your chamber’s government affairs program, a government affairs committee (GAC) should be the cornerstone of your chamber’s advocacy efforts. Most importantly, it is where the ideas begin and end in representing the interests of your members with government.

Shaun Lumachi is President of Chamber Advocacy, a professional consulting firm that builds and maintains results-oriented government affairs programs for chambers of commerce.

Rate this Article  rating of 0 from 0 votes
Public Policy | 0 Comments | Add a Comment | Permalink |

Taking Sides - Card Check

ACCE Webmaster on Monday, October 20, 2008 at 4:37:00 pm 

While it was never mentioned in any of the presidential debates, Card Check (aka: The Employee Free Choice Act) is a big election issue.  Here is an overview of some of the major groups on both sides of the Card Check debate.

Groups Opposing Card Check

Coalition for a Democratic Workplace
According to their website, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace is a "coalition of workers, employers, associations and organizations who are fighting to protect the right to a federally supervised private ballot when workers are deciding whether or not to join a union."  Literally hundreds of organizations, including many ACCE members, have signed on as supports of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace.  Visit their website at: http://www.myprivateballot.com/

Employee Freedom Action Committee
EmployeeFreedom.org is the website for the Employee Freedom Action Committee (EFAC), a non-partisan, non-profit organization fighting for fair elections in the workplace.  Their interactive website includes details on labor contributions to Senate candidates, automated letter writing features, and a form to share personal accounts of union intimidation.  Former Senator George McGovern is the lead spokesperson for EFAC, and has appeared national advertising spots for the organization.  (Clearinghouse Blog readers will recall that Sen. McGovern came out forcefully against Card Check in a Wall Street Journal Op-ed)

To visit their website go to: http://www.employeefreedom.org/.  The organization also has a blog, Labor Pains, that it runs with the Center for Union Facts.  Visit the blog at: http://laborpains.org/

US Chamber
The US Chamber is also a vocal opponent of Card Check stating on their website that it would, "upend decades of settled labor law in order to give organized labor an unfair advantage in union organizing, at the expense of both employees and employers."  Click to link to the US Chamber's Card Check Issue Page.

Groups Supporting Card Check

AFL-CIO
Not surprisingly the AFL-CIO is a vocal supporter of Card Check.  Their website  includes an online petition, letter writing campaign, and numerous YouTube video clips of labor leaders, elected representatives and union workers speaking in favor of Card Check.  The site also includes numerous position papers and studies, including one poll which claims that 69% of Americans favor Card Check.

American Rights at Work
American Rights at Work is a nonprofit advocacy organization founded in dedicated to promoting the freedom of workers to organize unions and bargain collectively with employers.  The organization's board includes: Sen. John Edwards, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and John J. Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO.  Visit their website at: http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/.  The organization has a separate website devoted to attracting signatures for a Card Check petition: http://www.freechoiceact.org/

Rate this Article  rating of 0 from 0 votes
Employee/Employer Relations | 0 Comments | Add a Comment | Permalink |

Energy Issue Jam - Oct 21

ACCE Webmaster on Friday, October 17, 2008 at 9:34:52 pm 

Energy is a hot topic for both presidential candidates.  Regardless of who is elected to the White House in November, energy policy will play a major role in the next administration.  Get ahead of the curve, join us for the Energy Issue Jam.

Mcmahonsmall Richard McMahon, Executive Director of Energy Supply for the Edison Electric Institute, will lead the Energy Issue Jam on October 21 at 1pm eastern.  Topics for discussion include: infrastructure and capital expansion costs; supply, price and demand for electricity; renewable portfolio standards; climate change and CO2 reduction; and any other energy related topic you want to discuss.

Issue Jams are a forum for shared learning and open discussion about the latest policy trends.  The phone lines will be open throughout the call and we anticipate a lively discussion.  Don't miss this opportunity to be at the leading edge of energy policy, sign up for the Energy Issue Jam on Oct 21.

Click to register: http://www.acce.org/seminars-dialogue-display_ektid11918.aspx

Rate this Article  rating of 0 from 0 votes
Environment and Energy | 0 Comments | Add a Comment | Permalink |

Is Green the Economic Solution?

ACCE Webmaster on Friday, October 17, 2008 at 6:03:18 pm 

Is green growth the way out of the current economic slump?  Dr. Mark Weiss, chairman of Global Urban Development and a lead figure in the Climate Prosperity Project, certainly thinks so.  His article in this week's Citiwire newsletter assert:

"Climate protection and economic growth are not enemies. Core strategies to create a vibrant economy — innovation, efficiency, strategic investment, and finding better ways to use and reuse resources — are exactly the same steps we need to cope with global climate change now. These actions will increase jobs, incomes, productivity, and competitiveness, and they’re green.'

'There are commentators who advocate postponing investments in renewable energy and clean technologies, suggesting this will somehow delay economic recovery. They’re dead wrong. In the 21st century, the only way for people and places to get richer is by thinking and acting for sustainability, specifically aiming to become 'greener.'"

I think everyone can agree that increased efficiency, technological innovation and new 'green collar' jobs would be great for the economy. (Who wouldn't love to land a new solar panel manufacturer in their community?) But the Wall Street Journal points out a potential stumbling block - cheap(er) oil.  Oil prices have tumbled from $140 per barrel to approximately $70 as demand has fallen.  The current economic slump may push demand and prices even lower.  Yesterday's article, Going Down: What Will Falling Oil Prices Do to Clean Energy?, poses a big question:

"Cheaper oil could also affect support for renewable energy, even though wind turbines and solar panels don’t compete with oil and gasoline today. Crude at $140 focused minds in Washington on the need to look for alternative energy sources.... When oil prices collapsed in the 1990s, renewable energy in the U.S. basically fell off a cliff.  Nobody is predicting a return to $10 oil, but with $60 oil considered the 'new cheap,' could it happen again?"

If 'green' is your community's strategy for economic development you will have to work to maintain focus.  If public interest and political will forget about green because of lower gas prices and pressing economic issues, investment will be harder to secure and entrepreneurs will have a tough time delivering all those new, high paying green jobs.

 

Rate this Article  rating of 0 from 0 votes
Environment and Energy | 0 Comments | Add a Comment | Permalink |

Secret Ballot Paradox

ACCE Webmaster on Thursday, October 16, 2008 at 7:24:51 pm 

Congressional Democrats affirm secret ballot union elections for Mexico, but support Card Check for US workers.  A paradox?  I think so.  Here's the story...

In 2001, a group of 16 Senators and Congressional Representatives signed a letter, authored by Rep. George Miller (D-CA), encouraging the use of secret ballots in union elections in Mexico.  Here is a direct quote from that letter:

We understand that the secret ballot is allowed for, but not required, by Mexican labor law.  However, we feel the secret ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they might not otherwise choose.

This affirmation of secret ballot voting certainly seems diametrically opposed to the union election scheme proposed by Card Check, yet, of the 16 who signed the letter to Mexico in 2001, 12 signed on as co-sponsors to Card Check (H.R. 800).  The other 4 are no longer in Congress.  Representative Miller was actually the lead sponsor of the House Card Check Bill.

Click HERE to read the text the letter to Mexico.

Click HERE to see which representatives co-sponsored the Card Check bill.

Rate this Article  rating of 0 from 0 votes
Employee/Employer Relations | 0 Comments | Add a Comment | Permalink |

What's So Tough About The Times?

ACCE Webmaster on Monday, October 13, 2008 at 10:50:00 pm 

Lumachi_2 Advocacy Advice from Shaun Lumachi

A friend emailed me the following article a few weeks ago. I can't source it because even he does not remember where he got it. Nevertheless, in these troubling times I firmly believe that if you think and act as if times are tough, then times are tough. Or, you (as I have) can take a different approach to how you view the current tough times. This article should make you think a little differently about what you say about these tough times.

Bouncing back from deflating times

Failure is all too common in business.  Anyone who has ever ran a business wakes up regularly with nightmares about the what-ifs.

Successful business people, however, know that even if adversity strikes, they can work around it.  They are resilient.

Tylenol currently controls about 35 percent of the North American pain reliever market, but in 1982, you couldn't give Tylenol away.  A psychopath put cyanide into some Tylenol capsules, causing eight deaths.  Although it was clear that Johnson & Johnson had done nothing wrong in the manufacturing of the pills, the company accepted responsibility and pulled more than 31 million bottles form the shelves at cost of $100 million.  The company also offered to exchange the capsules for tablets, taking another financial hit.

But their response, putting customer safely before corporate profit, helped restore confidence in both the company and the brand.  The CEO- Jim Burke said, "It will take time, it will take money, and it will be very difficult; but we consider it a moral imperative, as well as good business, to restore Tylenol to its pre-eminent position." Sales recovered quickly.  Resilient? You better believe it.

Sure this is an extreme example, but if those companies can bounce back on such a large scale, they should inspire those facing smaller challenges,

Sales slumps, production slowdowns, labor issues and changing customer preferences affect many businesses.  The strong survive not because they are determined to conduct business as usual, but because they find ways to rise above the issue at hand.

Remember, you can't live life with an eraser.  You can't anticipate every possible problem, no matter how hard you try.  But you can resolve to face challenges as they arise.  Keep your mind wide open for solutions, listen to those around and under you, reprogram your brain for success and dig in.

It is better to bend than to break.  Companies and workers who can bend and not break have the gift of resiliency that let them bounce back from adversity.

Morale:  Don't let hard times turn into end times.  Let them lead to your best times.

-- Shaun

Shaun Lumachi is President of Chamber Advocacy, a professional consulting firm that builds and maintains results-oriented government affairs programs for chambers of commerce.  For more information about Chamber Advocacy go to http://www.chamberadvocacy.biz/index.html

Rate this Article  rating of 0 from 0 votes
Public Policy | 0 Comments | Add a Comment | Permalink |

New Card Check Resources

ACCE Webmaster on Friday, October 10, 2008 at 8:53:03 pm 

Two new download-able documents that will help you communicate Card Check were just posted to PolicyClearinghouse.org.

Card Check 101: Fact Sheet and Issue Brief - Card Check, both released by the State Chamber of Oklahoma, offer concise information about the Card Check proposal and analysis about what the bill would do to labor relations in the United States.  Both documents explain the issue clearly and succinctly; they are ideal to share with uninformed members.

We've made the word files avaliable so you can modify and use at your chamber.  ACCE members can click to download:

Rate this Article  rating of 0 from 0 votes
Employee/Employer Relations | 0 Comments | Add a Comment | Permalink |

State and Local Budgets Feel the Crunch

ACCE Webmaster on Friday, October 10, 2008 at 6:47:33 pm 

This week Neal Pierce's article from Citiwire.net addressed the deepening budget problems state and local governments are facing the in wake of the financial crisis.   Pierce asserts that:

"The Wall Street fiscal crisis effectively shut the state-local government sector out of borrowing — either for long-term bonds, or of more immediate gravity, bridge loans to keep them afloat awaiting sales tax and April income tax receipts."

He adds, however, that:

"...the stage for a “perfect fiscal storm” was already set by the seriously weakened fiscal condition of so many state and local governments. On top of the stunning $43 billion in prospective deficits that 29 states had to cover with spending cuts or tax hikes, taxes for the fiscal year starting July 1, at least 15 of these states have already seen serious new budget gaps emerge."

The articles goes to address the specter of public pension liability and raises this question about intergovernmental cooperation as a potential solution:

"Should Congress approve of billions of dollars in revenue sharing for states and localities hard hit by the decline in tax revenues caused by the foreclosures federal inattention triggered, and falling property values?"

Click to access the full article:  Feds, States, Cities: In One Fiscal Boat.

Citiwire.net is a new service from the Citistates Group that offers weekly articles on metropolitan policy and planning.  Each week features an article from noted columnist and Citistates Group co-founder Neal Pierce and one from another of the Citistates group associates.

Rate this Article  rating of 0 from 0 votes
Tax | 0 Comments | Add a Comment | Permalink |

Defusing the Public Pension Time Bomb

ACCE Webmaster on Thursday, October 9, 2008 at 11:43:07 pm 

Between election coverage and financial headlines, there seems to be little room for coverage of other news these days, yet, there are other big issues that deserve their share of the public spotlight.  Public employee pension liability is one example in many states.

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce is working hard to create buzz around this important issue during a time when everyone is taking a hard look at state budgets.  The Chamber drew attention for a newly released, in-depth Nevada Government Expenditure Study which includes analysis of public employee compensation and retirement benefits.  The study, prepared by Jeremy Aguero of Applied Analysis and Guy Hobbs of Hobbs, Ong & Associates, also features a state-to-state comparison of public employee compensation.  To see the press attention this study is receiving, check out this article from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Las Vegas is not the only chamber tackling this important issue.  Last week Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, published this op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel highlighting the pension problem plaguing Milwaukee Public Schools.

As budget belt tightening begins, make sure your community knows what pubic employee pensions cost.

Rate this Article  rating of 0 from 0 votes
State Legislature | 0 Comments | Add a Comment | Permalink |

Energy is THE Topic in Debates

ACCE Webmaster on Wednesday, October 8, 2008 at 6:52:55 pm 

The overarching theme I've noticed in all of the debates this presidential election season is energy.  Last night both Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama discussed energy in answers to questions about the economy, the environment and foreign policy.  Energy is the subject of the phrase (Gov. Palin's mantra "Drill Baby, Drill") that may well prove to be the most memorable of the entire election.

I am happy to see this level of focus on energy.  As evidenced by ACCE's most recent policy survey, energy is among the most pressing issues facing our country.  If you are focused on energy at your chamber join us for the Energy Issue Jam.

Richard McMahon, Executive Director of Energy Supply for the Edison Electric Institute, will lead the Energy Issue Jam on October 21 at 1pm eastern.  Topics for discussion include: infrastructure and capital expansion costs; supply, price and demand for electricity; renewable portfolio standards; climate change and CO2 reduction; and any other energy related topic you want to discuss.

Issue Jams are a forum for shared learning and open discussion about the latest policy trends.  The phone lines will be open throughout the call and we anticipate a lively discussion.  Don't miss this opportunity to be at the leading edge of energy policy, sign up for the Energy Issue Jam on Oct 21.

Rate this Article  rating of 0 from 0 votes
Environment and Energy | 0 Comments | Add a Comment | Permalink |
OFFICIAL CORPORATE SPONSORS
Accrisoft is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE American Express is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE Aventura World by Central Holidays West is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Benfits Trust is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE Citslinc is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE Grow With Google is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE New Insperity Market Street Services is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives The U.S. Chamber is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE Vistage is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE
SILVER SPONSORS
Avalanche Consulting sponsors ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives CardConnect sponsors ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Constant Contact POWER 10 sponsors ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Resource Development Group sponsors ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives United Networks of America is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE YouScience sponsor ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives
Sponsorship and advertising opportunities Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives