Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Monday April 4th, 2016, 4:26pm

Internal Poll Shows Most Business Executives Back Minimum Wage Hike, Other Pro-Worker Measures

Most U.S. business executives support policies to boost the minimum wage and provide workers with paid sick time, predictive scheduling and increased maternity and paternity leave, an internal poll shows.

The poll findings, obtained by the progressive watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy, clash with the policy positions of business groups fighting against such proposals.

Luntz Global, operated by GOP pollster Frank Luntz, conducted the poll of 1,000 U.S. business executives on behalf of the Council of State Chambers. Among those surveyed, 63 percent belong to a chamber of commerce.

According to the findings, 80 percent of survey respondents backed an increase in their state's minimum wage, compared to 8 percent who opposed the idea.

In February, Luntz Global's Managing Director David Merritt spoke on a private webinar with state chamber officials about the poll results. 

"That's where it's undeniable that they support the increase," Merritt said. "And this is universal. If you're fighting against a minimum wage increase, you're fighting an uphill battle, because most Americans, even most Republicans, are okay with raising the minimum wage."

The poll also shows that business executives support the expansion of paid sick time by a margin of 73 percent to 16 percent.

Among other key findings, 72 percent of respondents said they favor an increase in maternity leave time, while 82 percent supported mandating or increasing time for paternity leave. Nine percent and 7 percent of business executives opposed those respective proposals.

Additionally, 78 percent of those polled endorsed measures to make workers' schedules more predictable, while 11 percent opposed such proposals. 

CMD detailed the comments exchanged during the webinar: "In the webinar, a Luntz Global consultant asks about the poll findings: 'So what do these results all have in common? Well quite frankly, they're all empathetic.' In response, the consultants advise Council of State Chamber lobbyists on messaging and strategies to help their members get over their empathy and to undermine and change their members' views: 'So what we'll try to do is actually give you a few helpful hints on how to actually combat these [workplace reform efforts and their popularity among business leaders] in your states...'"

Here is the webinar video:

CMD Executive Director Lisa Graves offered her take on the poll results and webinar comments.

"This webinar reveals just how deeply corporate interests and their lobbyists are influencing the priorities of state chambers of commerce, even when that agenda contradicts the opinions of their local business members," she said. "Rather than listening to its members and crafting a policy agenda that reflects their priorities, chamber lobbyists pick their policy positions behind closed doors and then figure out how to convince their members to fall in line.

"It's a warped, undemocratic process, and the chambers should be held accountable for their claims to the public, press, and elected officials that businesses oppose raising the minimum wage, paid sick leave, increased family and medical leave and other common sense policies, when in fact substantial majorities of business executives actually support these public policies," she added. 

Advocacy groups are also reacting to the survey results, which came to light Monday, the same day California and New York enacted legislation to gradually bump up their state minimum wages to $15 an hour. 

The results also come on the heels of a Chicago mayoral task force recommending a paid sick leave policy for the city. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce are among the business groups opposing the task force's recommended policy, under which employers would have to provide their workers with a minimum of five earned paid sick days per year.

"Paid sick days, paid family and medical leave, fair scheduling and a higher minimum wage are critically important to the health and well-being of workers, their families and the businesses that employ them," said Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. "We have known for years what this research confirms: that an overwhelming share of business leaders support paid sick days, paid leave and other family friendly policies. It's long past time for the knee-jerk opposition, and baseless sky-is-falling claims, from organized business interests to end. We should be working together to adopt the advances that benefit everyone, not having pitched battles every time we try to advance a paid sick days or paid leave law or raise the minimum wage."

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