Irish Eyes Still Smiling on Business

Mark Esper at the U.S. Chamber (to which we have no affiliation — but many similar objectives, btw) recently offered a blog post about hosting a luncheon for Mary Coughlan, Ireland’s Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment. What’s interesting is not only the work Ireland is doing to enhance its business community, but also how strongly the country’s economy is linked to Americans: 

During her remarks, Ms. Coughlan noted that 45% of all FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) into Ireland comes from the U.S. This should come as no surprise, she added, since Ireland offers a highly pro-business environment: flexible workforce, low taxes, and limited bureaucracy, to name a few things. Ms. Coughlan commented that the government of Ireland is working on all necessary fronts to maintain this pro-business momentum, including an enhanced focus on the need to sustain employment by investing in science, technology and innovation.

In addition, she spoke of recent economic reforms that Ireland has taken in light of the current global financial crisis. These include pursuing smarter regulations, expanding government investment in infrastructure and education, and creating a clearer and simpler tax system. Ms. Coughlan’s comments, as I noted during the luncheon, aligned with the business priorities that espoused here at the U.S. Chamber.

Our own Rebecca Patrick also penned an interesting BizVoice story in 2007 about Ireland’s business-related efforts that will offer more background.

Avoid the EFCA Rat Trap

Geoff O’Hara of the United States Chamber offered a great post last week about the perceptions, realities, and tactics involved in the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Here it is in its entirety:

Just after 8:00 a.m. on a soggy morning in Providence, I was approaching the local Chamber of Commerce to participate in a briefing to small businesses on the Employee Free Choice Act when I saw it…a rat. And not just any rat. This was a HUGE rat.  Bigger than a grizzly bear! Right on the sidewalk in front of the building!

Fortunately for the musophobic crowd (if they’re even still reading this), this was not (a) live rat. It was a 15 foot high inflatable rat – serving as the anchor prop for a group of about 25 people protesting the seminar at which I was about to speak. According to one protestor – the rat symbolized anyone that was anti-union. And their ongoing chants — "What’s disgusting?…Union busting!" — echoed that sentiment.

I was certainly surprised to see that they even make rats that big (what other uses would it have?), but what surprised me even more was the disconnect between the protestors’ message, and the subject of this morning’s seminar.  The Employee Free Choice Act isn’t anti-union at all. And it doesn’t have anything to do with ‘union busting.’  Instead, it is legislation that would dramatically alter the process under which unions organize – essentially turning upside down decades of established labor law.

Employers would lose the opportunity to be part of a dialogue with employees about forming a union; would face binding arbitration on a new contract within a short timeframe; and would be subject to stiff one-sided new penalties for any violations.

Employees would lose access to a secret ballot when deciding whether or not to unionize, and could be subject to coercion and strong arm tactics from union organizers.

Employers lose, employees lose . . . the only group that stands to gain under the Employee Free Choice Act is the union organizers themselves.

Hmm . . . I smell a rat.

U.S. Chamber, SHRM File Lawsuit Over E-Verify

From the "please stop giving businesses even more hoops to jump through" file, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the U.S. Chamber are joining forces (along with three other trade groups) in a lawsuit against the U.S. government regarding a recent E-Verify executive order. They charge that requiring federal contractors to use the Dept. of Homeland Security’s E-Verify system to confirm if employees are legally eligible to work in the U.S. is illegal.

"This massive expansion of E-Verify is not only bad policy, it’s unlawful," said Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the chamber’s public policy law firm. "The administration can’t use an executive order to circumvent federal immigration and procurement laws. Federal law explicitly prohibits the secretary of Homeland Security from making E-Verify mandatory or from using it to reauthorize the existing workforce."

The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, is Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America, et al. v. Chertoff, et al. It challenges both the reauthorization and the government’s use of an executive order coupled with federal procurement law to make E-Verify mandatory for federal contractors with projects exceeding $100,000 and for subcontractors with projects exceeding $3,000.

"The DHS intends to expand E-Verify on an unprecedented scale in a very short timeframe and to impose liability on government contractors who are unable to comply," said Randy Johnson, vice president of Labor, Immigration and Employee Benefits at the chamber. "Given the current economy, now is not the time to add more bureaucracy and billions of dollars in compliance costs to America’s businesses."

Hat tip to Chamber staffer Glenn Harkness for the link.

U.S. Chamber Lauds Today’s Passage of Bill

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is expressing its support for the passage of today’s "financial rescue" bill, claiming it had to be passed in order to keep the American economy — and its businesses — afloat.

With the American economy on life support, Congress took the necessary step to stop the bleeding.  Today’s bipartisan vote in the House is a major step toward stabilizing the credit markets and supporting Main Street businesses.

Every day there was a delay in shoring up our financial markets, Americans saw their investments plummet. Over the past few days, uncertainty and turmoil have dramatically affected markets and lowered equity prices, eroded individual savings, and destroyed household wealth.