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Patrick Hedren

The NAM Supports the Equality Act Before Congress

By | General | No Comments

Manufacturers believe that equal opportunity is a key pillar of our great democracy—one that allows every individual to pursue the American Dream based on his or her own talents and qualifications. That’s why manufacturers and the business community have made great strides in providing non-discrimination protections for our LGBT employees. There is still further to go, however, and manufacturers believe now is the right time for Congress to act to help our country get there.

On Tuesday, I testified before the House Committee on Education and Labor Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services on behalf of the National Association of Manufacturers. In my testimony, I expressed manufacturers’ support for the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include explicit non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We believe a federal standard will help manufacturers better attract and retain a talented workforce, which is greatly needed as we face a major skills gap. Many states and hundreds of localities already explicitly protect residents from sexual orientation- and gender identity-based discrimination in the workplace—all with slightly different requirements and definitions. A uniform federal approach will help business by providing a clear basic level of non-discrimination protection across the states.

The Equality Act puts sexual orientation and gender identity on a level playing field with other sex-based non-discrimination protections. It also includes two important pragmatic features. First, it includes a basic applicability threshold of 15 or more employees to protect smaller firms from the red tape that applies to larger employers. Second, it includes a religious exemption allowing religious employers to maintain their religious values and teachings in making hiring decisions for specific positions that require it.

Manufacturers have been at the forefront in providing their employees with fair and meaningful protections against sexual orientation- and gender identity-based discrimination. Partly, this is because talented employees demand it. Partly, this is because employers understand the importance of creating an environment in which the very best people can succeed based on merit. And namely, this is because manufacturers believe that discrimination of any kind is antithetical to the values we work to uphold every day: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity. The Equality Act will protect those values and create a stronger, more welcoming workforce.

NAM Supports Bill to Codify Workplace Equality for LGBTQ Employees

By | Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

Today the Equality Act—bipartisan legislation that would, among other things, protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in the workplace—was introduced in the House and Senate. The National Association of Manufacturers has long opposed discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Today we joined with more than 40 other industry associations—representing a truly stunning breadth of the American economy—in supporting the Equality Act.

Manufacturers have led the way in providing their employees with fair and meaningful protections against sexual orientation- and gender identity-based discrimination. The reason for this is simple: talented employees demand it, and employers understand the importance of creating an environment in which the very best people can succeed based on merit. At the same time, manufacturers know that discrimination in any form is antithetical to the values that we work to uphold every day: equality of opportunity, individual liberty, free enterprise, and competitiveness.

The bill’s basic approach of including protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity under the existing framework of the Civil Rights Act is sensible. By making these protections consistent with those for other protected classes, it takes advantage of decades of judicial precedent to provide as much clarity as possible to the businesses who must ultimately comply. The Civil Rights Act also provides long-established protections for religious organizations, and it limits its reach to employers with 15 or more employees.

The Equality Act creates a clear federal standard that matches the sentiments manufacturers already share: gender identity and sexual orientation have no impact on an employee’s abilities and discrimination is not welcome on the manufacturing floor. This legislation will no doubt see twists and turns as it works its way through Congress. We welcome this process, which will undoubtedly include a robust debate. We look forward to working with Congress as this important legislation moves forward.

Signed, Sealed, Time to Deliver

By | General, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is in trouble. It has been for a long time. And that’s worrying for a lot of people in our country, including manufacturers. Affordable mail service is critical to American manufacturers, even in the internet age—perhaps especially so. Production, billing, advertising and other important needs of a successful company depend on a reliable, affordable and efficient postal system with universal service. Many manufacturers rely directly or indirectly on the USPS to get their products to customers. Others make indirect inputs like shipping products designed to support our country’s modern logistics backbone. All told, the USPS supports a $1.4 trillion industry on which millions of jobs depend. Yet, today, the USPS is functionally broke, reporting net financial losses for the past 11 years straight, and it’s trapped in a bizarre legal straightjacket—a legal mandate to massively pre-fund its retiree health care plans—that prevents the service from getting itself out of that hole. In response, the USPS has cut costs in areas that harm its service standards, has misattributed costs among product categories and has asked for significant shortsighted stamp price increases that could threaten the manufacturing economy. It is time to finally get the USPS back on its feet.

The problems afflicting the USPS are serious but fixable. That’s why the National Association of Manufacturers applauds Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) for introducing legislation that would take a big step toward achieving real and bipartisan postal reform.  The Postal Service Reform Act of 2018: Improving Postal Operations, Service and Transparency bill, like its House companion the Postal Service Reform Act of 2017, is the result of years of hearings, fact-finding, negotiation and compromise between members of the House and Senate from across the political spectrum. The legislation would provide a more rational schedule for pre-funding the USPS’s retiree obligations, while giving the USPS more of the flexibility it needs to adapt to a changing economy and run its service more like a regular business. Legislation like this simply underscores the fact that the USPS can effectively tackle its problems without resorting to drastic measures—like hiking the price of only a few products like stamps—if Congress gives it some flexibility, and we thank the sponsors of both the Senate and House measures for working hard to put this legislation together.

On a related note, as the postal reform debate moves forward in Congress, manufacturers hope members of both parties will take the opportunity to address other problems like international package deliveries, too. The USPS loses hundreds of millions of dollars per year providing far-below-market rates for inbound packages from countries like China that abuse an international agreement developed by the Universal Postal Union (an international agency based in Switzerland). The USPS loses money on every single package it takes inbound from China, and the annual growth in these package deliveries is astounding. Many of these packages contain drugs or other contraband, and yet, the USPS either does not or cannot collect meaningful data from foreign shippers that would allow U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to screen them effectively. Now is a prime opportunity to make clear to the USPS that these mounting losses and dangerous packages are unnecessary, unacceptable and almost certainly illegal. The USPS should not be allowed to raise shipping rates for American shippers to pay for this absurd subsidy for foreign competitors and counterfeiters. And Congress can give them the relief they need by clearly prohibiting the implementation of any agreement that unfairly discriminates against U.S. shippers and by clearly requiring the USPS to collect advanced information on foreign shipments.

We hope Congress will do just these things, just as we hope members of both parties will work together to pass commonsense postal reform legislation so we can ensure the viability of the USPS for years to come.