How Does GSBA's Policy Work Impact Our Small Business Members?

by Matt Landers, Director of Public Policy & Government Relations
| Jun 01, 2019
 

“How does GSBA’s policy work impact our small business members?”

This is a question that I am asked every year in the course of running GSBA’s advocacy program. While GSBA’s advocacy for LGBTQ civil rights is well known, our advocacy for Washington small businesses is an equally important plank of our policy agenda. And, importantly, we do not see the two issues as mutually exclusive.

GSBA’s mission is to combine business development, leadership, and social action to expand economic opportunities for the LGBTQ community and those who support equality for all. Protecting the civil rights of all our members is key to economic success. When GSBA lobbies to protect transgender and gender non-conforming students from bullying and harassment, we do it because we know that bullying has ripple effects throughout a person’s lifetime and directly impacts their economic wellbeing. When we support efforts to prohibit the use of prior salary history in setting an employee’s new salary, it’s because we can clearly see the generational impact of salary discrimination on women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and other marginalized groups who frequently experience this. This directly impacts our members themselves, their families, their customers, and their community.

We have frequently commented that there is a lack of understanding of the reality of small businesses by policymakers in the City of Seattle. That is why during the Mayoral campaign of 2017 we asked candidates to commit to creating a small business advisory council, which Mayor Jenny Durkan promptly did upon assuming office. The first council included many GSBA members who are now in a position to help influence policy at the City level and ensure that a small business perspective is part of the process.

GSBA’s top priority in the 2019 legislative session was to establish a statewide LGBTQ Commission, to join the commissions representing the needs of minorities and women. We have been pushing for five years for this commission because we regularly see the impact of our community not being counted, or not being considered equal to other communities. The LGBTQ community has been left out of discussions and policymaking specifically because our community does not have this official voice. Creating one, therefore, will open doors for the LGBTQ community to have a place at the table when statewide economic policy – among so many other vital policy areas – is being discussed.

Our other top priority has been passing Initiative 1000 to re-establish a form of affirmative action in Washington State, which has banned since Initiative 200 passed in 1998. This initiative directly addresses inequities in the public contracting system for women, minorities, and veterans. Numerous studies have shown the clear and direct discriminatory impact of I-200 on the use of government contractors from protected classes. As we advocate for supplier diversity programs with our corporate members, we are pushing for recognition of supplier diversity efforts at the city, county, and state levels as well.

GSBA testified this year in favor of creating a small business bill of rights, which would require government agencies and departments to always proactively inform small businesses of their rights, duties, and deadlines during the course of any investigation. While this bill did not succeed, we will continue our advocacy in next year’s legislative session. GSBA also opposed several bills this which attacked the very foundation of independent contractors as a legitimate form of employment, including the infamous “salon bill” which received one of the largest outpourings of grassroots opposition that the Legislature has seen in years. Each of these bills was defeated in 2019.

When we fight against the myriad efforts by our opponents to prevent LGTBQ peoples’ access to public accommodations, we aren’t just fighting for the rights of couples to buy flowers and cakes (though we are doing that as well). We are fighting for your right as a business person to receive services from other businesses. We are fighting so that you and your customers have equal access to all public facilities regardless of your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

No matter what level of government, GSBA is committed to representing a voice for the LGBTQ community and a voice for small businesses. As one of the only chambers founded on the concepts of equality and equity, we are especially passionate for the areas in which civil rights and business intersect. We are proud to represent you, and encourage you to join us however you are able to share your voice.