“Business Leaders” Myth Back Again

As The Denver Post:

Colorado’s business leaders are pressing U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet to oppose controversial legislation that would make it easier for workers to unionize.

Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce president Joe Blake and other Colorado business officials met with Bennet this week in Washington to discuss the Employee Free Choice Act.

“This proposal is of great concern to Colorado’s business community,” Blake wrote in a Monday letter to Bennet. “It is divisive and unnecessary and, most importantly, it is wrong for Colorado.”

The letter was signed by 25 other Colorado business leaders, including Chuck Berry, president of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, and Tim Jackson, president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association.

We’ve said this before, and we’re going to just keep on saying it because it completely mystifies us that Democratic elected officials would be concerned about what this small minority of business “leaders” are demanding. When they say that “this is of great concern to Colorado’s business community,” they mean, “this is of great concern to Republicans in Colorado’s business community.”

We say this purely from a strategic political perspective: Why would a Democrat worry about what Joe Blake and Chuck Berry of CACI (which is almost entirely a Republican group) have to say?

This is the big “Business Community Myth,” that a) this small group really represents a significant number of business owners (they don’t), b) that they are going to support you anyway when you are running for election (they aren’t), and c) they don’t have the ability to defeat you at the polls anyway (they can’t).

Every politician wants to say that they have the support of “the business community,” but there is no such thing. The groups mentioned above, for example, are unabashedly part of the Republican “business community” and do not represent the majority of businesses. Remember the battle over “Right to Work” last fall? The South Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Golden Chamber of Commerce, among others, came out against the anti-union ballot measure. There was no business community unity there, so we’ll say it again:

There. Is. No. Unified. Business. Community. Period.

Now, back to the groups mentioned above. The Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI), for example, is never going to support Bennet in 2010 no matter what he does. Of course they don’t want the Employee Free Choice Act to pass – they’re basically a wing of the Republican Party in Colorado, and everybody who has ever been involved in politics in Colorado knows this. If you’re Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, you had better listen to CACI. But if you are a Democrat, why would you give two shits about what they have to say? Joe Blake of The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce isn’t quite as partisan as CACI, but he’s not far behind – it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out what Blake is going to oppose or support.

And finally, we keep coming back again and again to what happened last fall to Democrat Mark Udall when he was running for the U.S. Senate. “Business groups” spent millions of dollars on ads attacking Udall over the Employee Free Choice Act. And those ads proved to be about as effective as a Bob Beauprez strategy memo. Udall won by double-digits despite those attacks, and now some of those same groups are coming to him as a U.S. Senator and demanding he listen to them. Why the hell would he? If someone picks a fight with you and you beat them handily, it tells you two things: They aren’t your friends, and you don’t need to be afraid of them.

Bennet has a long way to go to prove his political chops, but this is one obvious way to do it. Being obsessed with placating the mythical “business community” has caused irreparable harm to Gov. Bill Ritter among his base, and in 2010 these same business groups are all going to support Republicans Josh Penry or Scott McInnis for Governor anyway. If Bennet starts making decisions based on the same logic, he’ll end up in the same place, with these “business leaders” laughing at him all the way.


14 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DavidThi808 says:

    As a member of the business community, and a very loud one at that – stop telling people where I stand on these issues!!! As a CEO and member in good standing of the business community (dues paid, secret handshake memorized, etc) I just want to say that I support Michael Bennet regardless of his stand on EFCA.

    Oh, and I don’t think EFCA will have much impact on businesses.

  2. Ben Stein's $$ says:

    The Hispanic Contractors of Colorado steadfastly oppose EFCA….most of their members are small minority owned companies, but I guess they are also just part of the “Republican Business Machine”?

    Me says that the Metro Chamber is the most vocal opponent of the EFCA right now, but I’ve spoken to many Democratic business owners who oppose EFCA, and know that the ramifications of a “yes” vote by Bennett will hurt his standing amongst them.  These are not the latte/iphone/REI/Subaru crowd like Dave above; these are the blue collar folks that the Dems are suppose to represent.  I can only think that Pols is standing up for Bennet because they know that he is in a tough spot right now, and by painting the Metro Chamber folks as the “Republican Machine”, they try and marginalize the opposition as being partisan on this.  This should be interesting…no doubt.

    • DavidThi808 says:

      I’ve never drunk a latte in my life, don’t go to REI (not an outdoors kind of person) and think Subarus are for people who have no idea how to drive.

      I’ve yet to hear from a Democratic business owner who’s opposed to this – and I talk to a lot. Most of them don’t care on this issue.

      So again – stop claiming business community. It’s just a subset of business owners.

      • Ben Stein's $$ says:

        So there!

        92% of this states construction industry is non-union, and wants to stay that way.  Believe it or not, there are Democrats who own businesses in the construction industry, they are non-union, and THEY want to stay that way.  I know why the Dems need to placate the 8% of union shops here and around the country:  They paid big $$ and had a ton of “volunteers” work their camapigns that belong to the Unions.  It’s that simple…this is pay back, and I would hope that Bennett is smart enough to realize that the MAJORITY of business in this state does not agree with EFCA.  Why would you disagree that most business are not in favor of EFCA?

        • DavidThi808 says:

          Keep in mind that EFCA really only effects blue collar companies that a) Have employees who work there for awhile, and b) treat their employees badly. I worked non-union construction all through college and never had the urge to become unionized.

      • I’ve probably put more miles on my (so far) 2 Subarus than you’ve driven in the past 15 years – and I have a second car.

        You can keep the latte, though, and REI is for occasional use only.

        As for business owners and their attitudes, the business owners who are most against the EFCA are the owners of multi-billion dollar corporations who’ve spent lots of money union-busting their way to riches on the backs of their employees.  Once again those being led by Rush & Friends wind up doing the bidding of Big Business, with nothing in it for themselves.

  3. JO says:

    Did you use the the Frankfurt School Weberian-marxist-freudian synthesis to analyze how class conflict plays out through institutionalized repression and helps to produce and maintain the ‘iron cage’ of societal rationalization in the laundromat business?

    If you did, you’d realize how 12 laundromat owners–okay, one dropped out, having failed to get the brown stains out of the white flag, but anyway–how 11 laundromat owners are entitled to call themselves whatever they want, as a group, as well as to  speak on behalf of, of… well, to speak up.

  4. tallport says:

    I just the comments and find myself thinking that maybe somebody should mention the people who show up and do the work or are they just expendable parts of the business?  Joining a labor union is right. Period. See National Labor Relations Act.  

  5. ohwilleke says:

    Big business is the traditional enemy of labor unions.  

    Small business (represented by more local chambers of commerce) is less concerned about unionization because they aren’t nearly as desirable to unionize, most importantly, because permanently replacing a dozen or two small business employees or fewer who go on strike is much easier than replacing hundreds or thousands of employees at a big business.  Also, competitive pressures on small businesses are such that there usually isn’t much wiggle room in substantive wage terms in a contract with employees.

    There are issues upon which the business community as a whole is quite united (for that matter there are issues upon which the left handed people’s community is united).  But, union-management issues are often not among them.  

    The EFCA whose high profile provision governs the process by which unionization elections are commenced is also much more relevant to big business than to small business.  Simply put, there isn’t much involved in conducting a unionization election at a shop with five or fourteen or twenty employees who have probably already discussed the matter in private face to face.  The difference between a card check and a secret ballot election, and the delay involved that leaves time to change minds is much more material in a big business than in a small one.

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