Congress and the Card Check Bill—You Can Make a Difference Last week’s Textile Rental Weekly reported the introduction of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) union-organizing bill before the Senate. This came on the heels of the March 1 passage in the U.S. House of the same bill that would let unions quickly organize companies through signed authorization cards, rather than secret-ballot elections. Where do we stand now? President George W. Bush has promised to veto the bill, and Senate Republicans likely will engage in delaying tactics both in committee and on the Senate floor to keep it from coming to a vote. The Democrats and a small number of Republican supporters are probably short of the 60 votes they need to force a vote on Card Check. Why should you care? This bill may not become law anyway, right? Wrong! Like business, politics is a game of short- and long-term strategies. The Democrats have won a short-term victory—this is the farthest EFCA has ever moved toward enactment. It still faces hurdles, but what if the Democrats prevail in next year’s presidential poll and win a few more Senate seats? These are possibilities you must take seriously. If you don’t want mass unionization of the textile service industry—even in cases where large numbers of employees oppose such a move—you need to get in the game now, while there’s time to win the long-term battle against EFCA. You can begin by coming to the nation’s capital this May 7-8 to meet with nd lawmakers during TRSA’s 2 annual March on Washington. These Members of Congress need to hear of your concerns about EFCA. You can remind them of how EFCA will stack the deck in favor of unions in ways that could gut your ability to compete in today’s markets. For example, under EFCA, if a company and a union are unable to agree on a first contract within 90 days, either party can send the dispute to the Federal Mediation Conciliation Service for mediation. If no agreement is reached within 30 days, the agency can force both parties into binding arbitration. Do Members of Congress care that this bill might force you into bankruptcy or to sell your business? You bet they do—especially the freshman cohort elected last year in majority-Republican or conservative districts. Many of these Democrats ran on pro-business platforms. Some reluctantly endorsed card check due to union lobbying. As constituents, you’re the best hope of convincing them that supporting jobs at home beats bowing to union pressure. But you can’t start that process unless they hear from you—ideally face to face. Speaking out to Congress on policies that could undermine or enhance the industry’s growth is what the March on Washington is all about. If you’d like to register, or need more information, call Roger Cocivera at 877/770-9274 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, VA Should Focus on Veteran Care - Not Doing Laundry By Roger Cocivera We’ve all heard the disturbing news of late about trouble at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Most notorious among these is the case of Building 18 at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where returning service members injured in Iraq and Afghanistan had to endure mold- and rodent-infested quarters, while they were receiving treatment and rehabilitation. But the debate has now grown beyond this one instance. Instead, the focus has shifted to the quality of care these brave men and women are getting from the federal government. Members of Congress are holding investigations, and the VA is in the spotlight. With military conflicts raging in the Middle East, this issue isn’t going away any time soon. The VA needs to focus its resources on patient care. One way it can do that and save money at the same time is by letting U.S. businesses provide services not directly related to healthcare that the VA is currently doing for itself. Competitive sourcing – the practice of seeking bids from the private sector for work the government currently is doing – would put millions of dollars back into the VA healthcare system in order to directly help veterans get the medical care they need. According to an Office of Budget and Management (OMB) study in 2000, a competitive sourcing program at the VA would save the government $1.3 billion in 10 years. In 2004, OMB said competitive sourcing throughout the federal government would save $20 for every $1 that was spent on bidding out the work. But at the VA, those statistics don’t matter. Why? Because according to the VA, federal law prohibits the agency from competitive sourcing, unless Congress directs the agency to get bids on a specific service. This bureaucratic response is costing the U.S. taxpayers millions, and, unfortunately now, is undermining efforts to get veterans the healthcare they have earned. In VA hospital laundries alone, a 1999 government report estimates that the VA could save $2 million per year by closing 13 laundries. The report also said that the VA could save another $9 million on first-time costs for equipment and building renovation. Today, TRSA estimates that the VA could reduce operational cost by a minimum of 15%, reduce linen costs by 20% and eliminate the much-needed requirement for capital improvements over the next 10 years that are equal to more than $70 million. The government could reinvest these dollars into the VA healthcare system for patient care, if only Congress would approve a law repealing the VA’s restriction on competitive sourcing. TRSA has worked throughout this decade to make that law a reality. We also have challenged the VA when they propose to build or upgrade an existing laundry rather than outsourcing. In these instances where TRSA has convinced VA not to upgrade its laundry, textile maintenance services were outsourced and TRSA members are proving that our industry can do the work more cost effectively than the government. I urge all TRSA members to write to their Member of Congress and come to TRSA’s March on Washington to meet them in person and urge them to pass this common-sense legislation that will benefit America’s veterans. Competitive sourcing isn’t just an issue for TRSA and its members. If our industry alone can save the VA $5-$10 million a year, imagine how much could be saved by competitive sourcing throughout the department? Talk to your fellow business leaders back home, write a letter to your local newspaper or just tell a friend and let them know that there is a way they can help get more money for veterans’ care in their communities. By contacting their U.S. representative and senators and asking for competitive sourcing at the VA, they can make a difference for our veterans who have sacrificed so much for all of us. While the VA is now under a microscope, it’s important to note that the VA does have some of the world’s best medical personnel and services. They can, given adequate resources, provide excellent care to our service members coming back from conflicts around the world. Competitive sourcing would give the VA more money to do what it does best, that is providing top-rank medical care to our veterans, and not worrying about doing laundry. Roger Cocivera is president and CEO of TRSA. Congress One Step Closer to Increasing Federal Minimum Wage The nearly 2-month impasse between the House and Senate centering on each chamber’s version of legislation to increase the federal minimum wage could be nearing an end. On March 23, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1591, a bill to provide funding for the ongoing conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The legislation also included a provision to raise the minimum wage to $7.25/hr by Jan. 1, 2009, and provide tax breaks to small businesses to help them cope with a increased labor costs. Previously, House Democratic leaders have refused to include any offsetting benefits for businesses in a bill to increase the federal minimum wage. While Congress continues to debate the issue of increasing the federal minimum wage, individual states continue to take matters into their own hands. In the last two weeks, the governors of Kentucky and New Mexico signed into law legislation to increase their states’ minimum wage rates. On March 22, Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher (R) signed H.B. 305 into law. This legislation would increase the state’s minimum wage to $5.85/hr on July 1, 2007. The law calls for the minimum wage to increase again to $6.55/hr on Jan. 1, 2008, and to rise once more to $7.25/hr on Jan. 1, 2009. On March 23, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D) signed S.B. 342 into law. That bill will raise the state minimum wage rate to $6.50/hr on Jan. 1, 2008 and again to $7.50/hr on Jan 1, 2009. Faultless Earns Gold Awards for Being ‘Green’ Faultless Laundry Co., Kansas City, MO, recently received four Gold Industrial Wastewater Pretreatment Compliance Awards from the Missouri Water Environment Association (MWEA), a statewide group of some 720 sewage agencies, industrial and consulting firms. “We’re very conscientious about the quality of our plant’s wastewater,” said Faultless Linen President and CEO Susan Witcher, regarding the awards given for all four of the company’s Missouri linen plants. “We live and work in these communities and want to be eco-friendly. Although we’re proud of the awards, we would strive to reach the appropriate discharge levels simply because it’s the right thing to go.” th Faultless was one of only five laundries recognized at the MWEA’s 78 Annual Meeting on March 25-28 in Osage Beach, MO. Faultless’ Brooklyn and Broadway plants in Kansas City picked up their fourth and third consecutive Gold Awards, respectively. Winners of the Gold Award must comply fully with all wastewater discharge and reporting requirements, according to a news release. They also must have an industrial wastewater treatment facility, or pollution- prevention program, and they must have a history of good relations with the nominating city or sewer district. Faultless Linen was nominated for these awards by the pretreatment coordinators of their local municipalities (MSD-Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District and the Waste Water Division of the Kansas City, MO, Water Services Dept.). The MWEA is dedicated to preserving, protecting and improving the quality of Missouri’s water environment by providing a forum for education and information exchanges that promote sound environmental policy, while at the same time building alliances among all people interested in the water environment. Senate Pledges Support to Small Business Healthcare Pooling The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved a bipartisan amendment to the budget bill which creates a foundation to allow for market-based, small business healthcare pooling across state lines to be permitted in future health-insurance proposals. TRSA has long supported the Coalition Supporting Access & Choice Through Small Business Health Plans (SBHP Coalition), a group that was instrumental in getting the amendment passed. According to SBHP Coalition Chair Amanda Austin, the “amendment lays the financial foundation to support market-based, small-business pooling arrangements across state lines. This amendment helps pave the way for comprehensive health insurance reform that our nation’s small businesses so badly need.” For years, TRSA has advocated in favor of legislation that would allow employers to band together across state lines through Association Healthcare Plans (AHPs) or Small Business Healthcare Plans (SBHPs) when purchasing healthcare insurance. In doing so, employers could increase their purchasing power, while improving their employees’ access to coverage and reducing overall healthcare costs. SBHPs will have a win-win affect on small businesses because this mechanism would allow them to spread their risk, reduce costs, expand access and improve the quality of healthcare they offer to their employees. LaundryESP Data Drive—Nearly 60 Plants Have Filed LaundryESP® members have responded to TRSA/UTSA’s request for new data, but more effort is needed to get all LaundryESP-registered plants to report by the April 15 deadline. The latest figures show that 30 companies have filed new numbers on 2003-’06 production data for 57 plants. Both associations urge companies to keep pushing to get more of these numbers in this deadline that arrives this Sunday. LaundryESP was launched in 1999 as an alternative to categoricals regulation by EPA. Since the program began, textile service companies have reduced pollutant discharges by 40%, cut water use by 12.6% and lowered energy consumption by 11%. With the proliferation of high- efficiency equipment, we expect the industry’s results to be even better during this survey period. But we won’t know unless companies file their data. Please, notify your plant managers to collect this information and forward it as soon as possible, you haven’t done so already. Remember— LaundryESP is your best defense against having the government force costly and unworkable regulations on the industry. But it can only work with your cooperation and active support. If you have questions about the data-collection process, or need information about joining LaundryESP, please contact TRSA’s Director of Environmental Affairs Bob Schaffer at email@example.com or 877/770- 9274. TRSA Expands Performance Report to Include Management Compensation The association’s comprehensive Industry Performance Report, which contains benchmarking data for all aspects of a textile service business, is becoming even more valuable in 2007 with the addition of management compensation data collection. The 2007 edition, which we’ve renamed the Industry Performance and Management Compensation Report, will be available in September. Textile service members again have the opportunity to get a free copy of this report. Last week, TRSA mailed the data-collection survey to the corporate office of each textile service members. As in the past, TRSA won’t see any company’s individual data; a third party processor will develop the report. Please take a moment to look for this important survey and return it to the MacKay Research Group by July 30 in order to get a free copy of the Report and an individual analysis benchmarking your business against the industry – a $1,000 retail value. The Report allows textile service operators to benchmark on balance sheet and income statement categories. It also provides benchmarking statistics specifically for linen supply, healthcare and mixed plant operations as well as for single and multiple plant companies. For the first time, the Industry Performance Survey will include questions about management compensation. Previously, TRSA collected this data with a separate survey and published it under a separate title. But now by collecting this data with the Industry Performance Report, members have one less survey to complete. Moreover, the product they will receive for their participation will be more valuable. The new report will provide industry salary statistics and incentive potential (as a percentage of salary) for all levels of corporate management as well as for sales representatives. The 2006 Industry Performance Report is available now in TRSA Online’s bookstore or by calling TRSA at 877/770-9274. For more information or a copy of the survey, contact George Ferencz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 877/770-9274.
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