Legislative Updates

May 16, 2022

Senate Expected to Vote on Beginning Debate Over Restaurant Revitalization Fund Bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has pledged that the chamber will soon vote to begin debate on a bill that would allocate $40 billion to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF). The program provides a much-needed lifeline to restaurants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the initial $28.6 billion of funding ran out in spring 2021 after only three weeks, leaving 177,000 restaurants waiting for relief. Additional funding would provide that support.

The National Restaurant Association is requesting help from FEDA's dealer network to push the bill over the finish line. Even if you have previously engaged your Senators, FEDA asks you to please consider contacting them again by using this form. Everyone in Washington knows there is a great need to replenish the RRF, but they need to hear directly from businesses to make it a priority.

For more information on the status of the bill, please see the National Restaurant Association's latest Washington Update.
 

May 16, 2022

Rate of Inflation Slowed in April But Remains High

The rate of inflation slowed slightly to 0.3 percent in April, down from a 1.2 month-to-month increase in March, but remains a major concern for businesses.

To combat the high levels of inflation, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by half a percentage point earlier this month, the largest hike since 2000. However, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce noted that inflation is likely to continue for the time being. “The Fed’s actions to curb inflation – higher interest rates and selling its holdings of securities – will bring inflation own, but it will take several more months to see its effects,” wrote Curtis Dubay, senior economist for the Chamber.

In the meantime, business advocacy groups are looking for lawmakers to take a more direct approach. “Inflation is happening because too much money is chasing too few goods – it’s economics 101,” said Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer for the U.S. Chamber. “While the Federal Reserve focuses on the demand side through raising rates to cool the economy, only the administration and Congress can address the policy sides affecting inflation – workforce, energy, and tariffs are three key places to start.

“The U.S. economy has 11.5 million open jobs, but three million fewer workers than if labor force participation was equal to the pre-pandemic level. Getting people back to work and expanding legal immigration are key to taming inflation,” he continued.

Elsewhere, businesses are calling on lawmakers to make investments to boost U.S. energy production and to cut tariffs. “While the Federal Reserve focuses on the demand side through raising rates to cool the economy, only the administration and Congress can address the policy sides affecting inflation – workforce, energy, and tariffs are three key places to start,” the U.S. Chamber said.
 

May 9, 2022

Removing Tariffs Would Provide Lifeline to Companies Depending on Trade

The United Kingdom announced in April that it would eliminate tariffs on all goods coming from Ukraine in an effort to help the Eastern European nation’s economy during the military conflict with Russia. Now, American business groups are pushing for the United States to do the same.

“While it’s no panacea, suspending U.S. tariffs on imports from Ukraine would help the beleaguered country’s workers and businesses – notably, Ukraine has suspended all of its own import duties,” wrote Mary Kate Carter, coordinator of international policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Doing so would require legislation, but Congress has, in recent weeks, shown strong bipartisan support for measures to aid Ukraine.”

As Carter notes, Ukraine exported $1.9 billion in goods to the United States in 2021, less than 0.1 percent of all U.S. imports but equal to 2.8 of Ukraine’s total exports. As such, the impact would be minimal to the U.S. economy but would serve as an act of goodwill to Ukrainian workers, farmers and companies that are dependent on international trade.

There seems to be at least some support in Congress for taking this action. In early April, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Patrick Toomey (R-PA) asked the Biden administration to remove the 25 percent tariff on steel imports from Ukraine. “The United States should do everything it can to ensure that the Ukrainian people can effectively rebuild after the war,” the letter said. “Lifting the U.S. tariff on steel from Ukraine is a small but meaningful way for the U.S. to signal support for Ukraine and to provide stability and improve the country's long-term economic outlook.”
 

May 9, 2022

These Five Principles Will Ensure Business Can Thrive

In honor of National Small Business Week, which took place May 2-5, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called on Congress to embrace the Small Business Bill of Rights, a set of five free enterprise principles that emphasize what small business owners need from government to grow and thrive.

Elected leaders must ensure that founders, entrepreneurs and small business owners operate in an environment where they can:

  • Hire and Manage Employees – The government should not unduly burden a small business’s ability to establish their own employment policies nor interfere with their ability to fairly compete for talent, including using independent contractors and part-time workers.
  • Establish the Terms on Which they do Business – Small business owners should be free to manage the daily operations of their business, including establishing terms of service and entering into contracts without unnecessary government intervention.
  • Be Protected Against Frivolous Lawsuits – A small business has the right to operate without fear of profit-based litigation that uses the threat of lawsuits to extort payments.
  • Benefit from their Business and Direct its Future – Small business owners should enjoy the return on the businesses they build and be free to determine the future of their business, including the ability to sell the business or leave it as an inheritance.
  • Be Free of Onerous Regulations – Small business owners have the right to be heard in the development of rules and regulations that affect their livelihoods, their employees, and their communities and for government to take into consideration the disproportionate impact regulations can have on small businesses.
 
May 9, 2022

Acts Would Help Secure Supply Chains for Vital Components

With computer component shortages ongoing, there has been a renewed call for Congress to create funding for investments and incentives to support U.S. semiconductor manufacturing, research and development, and supply chain security.

The Creating Helpful incentives for the Production of Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act would provide an income tax credit for semiconductor equipment or manufacturing facility investment through 2026. Additionally, it would establish a trust fund to be allocated upon reaching an agreement with foreign government partners to promote:

  • Consistency in policies related to microelectronics
  • Transparency in microelectronic supply chains
  • Alignment in policies toward nonmarket economies

The CHIPS Act was originally introduced in 2020 and was eventually included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021. However, the NDAA did not include any funding for CHIPS that year, and legislators are still debating bills that would provide appropriations for the program.

Business groups are also advocating for an enhanced Facilitating American-Built Semiconductors (FABS) Act, which was introduced in March, 2022. FABS would establish a semiconductor investment tax credits to incentivize semiconductor manufacturing, design and research in the United States.

According to the Semiconductor Industry Association, “By funding the CHIPS Act and expanding and enacting the FABS Act, leaders in Washington can usher in a historic resurgence of chip manufacturing in America, strengthen our country’s most critical industries, boost domestic chip research and design, and help ensure the U.S. leads in the crucial, chip-enabled technologies that will define America’s strength for decades to come.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and trade associations, including FEDA, signed a letter to legislators last week urging them to approve funding for the programs. “Approval of funding provisions would help meet this long-term challenge by incentivizing semiconductor research, design, and manufacturing in the United States. This will in turn strengthen the U.S. economy, national security, and supply chain resilience and increase the supply of chips so important to our entire economy,” the letter stated.
 

May 2, 2022

Return to Old Organizing Approach Would Undermine Congress and Case Law

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has published a 27-page report debunking the new legal theory that states existing labor law already allows for union recognition through the controversial card check process.

The issue reemerged in April when Jennifer Abruzzo, general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board, filed a brief asking the NLRB to revive the Joy Silk doctrine, which allows unions to form through the card check method as long as the employer does not have reason to doubt that the presented cards represent a majority of employees. Card check differs from a secret ballot in that employees are not asked to vote in a federally supervised election, rather they sign authorization forms signaling their support for a union. The process has been criticized because it removes the ability for employees to keep their vote private and can increase the likelihood of coercion and intimidation about whether they should organize.

The Joy Silk doctrine dates back to a 1949 legal case and was later supplanted by the 1969 Supreme Court decision in NLRB v. Gissel Packing Co., a case where the employer refused to bargain with a union on the grounds that the card check process was inherently unreliable for determining whether a majority of employees wanted a union. In her brief, Abruzzo argued that the Gissel decision did not actually overturn Joy Silk, rather the Supreme Court erroneously determined that the NLRB’s current practice had changed from the doctrine to one where employers were not obligated to accept a card check as proof of the majority’s desire to unionize. As such, the NLRB could choose to reinstate the old standard for card check union organizing.

However, the U.S. Chamber’s report details several reasons supported by case law why the NLRB could not take such action unilaterally. The Gissel decision, the U.S. Chamber notes, allows for NLRB bargain without an election only when there was proof of “outrageous,” “pervasive” or other unlawful conduct that seriously impeded having a fair election. Further, it recalled the 1975 decision in Linden Lumber v. NLRB in which the Supreme Court held that unless the employer engaged in an unfair labor practice that impaired the electoral process, it was not obligated to accept a card check as proof of majority status.

The report also indicates that trying to enact card check organizing through agency policy would undermine Congress, which has never explicitly passed a law requiring union recognition based on signed authorization cards. The Wagner Act, which established the NLRB and the basic rights for union organizing in 1935, allows the agency to certify a union based on “a secret ballot of employees or any other suitable method.” However, the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 eliminated the phrase “any other suitable method,” leaving secret ballots as the only Congressionally authorized way to organize.

Since 1947, labor advocates and legislators have tried several times to introduce mandatory card check union authorization and each time the proposed laws have failed to gain passage, most recently when the PRO Act stalled in the Senate in 2021.

“Congress has repeatedly rejected efforts to impose card check and the general counsel cannot do so outside of the legislative process,” said Glenn Spencer, senior vice president for employment policy at the U.S. Chamber. “We will oppose this action with every tool at our disposal, including litigation if needed.”
 

May 2. 2022

National Restaurant Association Backs Legislation to Create New Visa Program

The National Restaurant Association held its annual public affairs conference in Washington D.C. last week, during which it continued to push for the passage of legislation that would help restaurants fill jobs left open by the ongoing worker shortage.

The Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act (EWEA) would create a new three-year guest worker visa for non-immigrant workers. The program is aimed at expanding workforce opportunities in occupations that do not require a college degree, such as many restaurant jobs. Restaurants would especially benefit from the program because the EWEA allots a specific number of positions for businesses that promote nationally recognized safety and health programs, hire workers who have barriers to employment or have comparatively low sales per employee.

More information on the proposed legislation is available here.

Take Action

FEDA members are asked to contact their legislators to tell them to support the EWEA by filling out the form at this link.
 

May 2, 2022

War, Inflation and Food Costs Top Policymakers’ Priorities

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reduced its growth projection for 2022 and 2023 to 3.6 percent. This is down 0.8 percentage points for 2022 and 0.2 percent for 2023 from the previous projection made in January, as the IMF believes the humanitarian crisis stemming from the war in Ukraine and the impact of inflation will slow global growth from the estimated 6.1 percent seen in 2021.

“The economic effects of the war are spreading far and wide – like seismic waves that emanate from the epicenter of an earthquake – mainly through commodity markets, trade and financial linkages,” Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, the IMF’s economic counsellor and director of research, wrote in the latest World Economic Outlook report.

As such, the IMF said the policymakers’ most immediate priority should be to end the war. Other key priorities mentioned include closing the gap on climate change between the state ambitions and policy actions, combating rising food costs and ensuring the global financial safety net operates effectively.

Tackling these challenges will take close macroeconomic coordination. The U.S. Chamber met with finance ministers and other government officials during the IMF/World Bank Meetings in Washington D.C. April 18-24. “The business community is ready to do our part to collaborate on shared solutions to these global challenges. What we need from world leaders is a clear, coherent strategy to chart a better way forward,” said Gary Litman, senior vice president, global initiatives for the U.S. Chamber.

To read more about what businesses should take away from the World Bank and IMF spring meetings, please click here.