Breaking News

Breaking News


Take a closer look at role of chambers

The​ ​whole​ ​truth​ ​requires​ ​that​ ​people​ ​know​ ​the​ ​”other​ ​side’” ​of​ ​the​ ​Chamber​ ​of​ ​Commerce,​ ​so​ ​I​ ​write​ ​in response​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Oct. 19​ ​letter​ ​to​ ​the​ ​forum,​ ​“Chambers​ ​help​ ​everyone​ ​in​ ​Hawaii,”​ ​from​ ​the​ ​president and​ ​CEO​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Chamber​ ​of​ ​Commerce​ ​of​ ​Hawaii,​ ​Sherry​ ​​ ​Menor-​ ​McNamara.​ ​​ ​

Granted​ ​there​ ​are​ ​many good​ ​people​ ​who​ ​have​ ​been​ ​involved​ ​with​ ​the​ ​chamber​ ​but​ ​let’s​ ​look​ ​at​ ​their​ ​foundation​ ​and​ ​actions past​ ​and​ ​present​ ​and​ ​some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​reasons​ ​state​ ​chambers​ ​across​ ​the​ ​country​ ​have​ ​been​ ​disassociating from​ ​the​ ​U.S.​ ​Chamber​ ​in​ ​recent​ ​years.

Menor-McNamara​ ​states​ ​in​ ​her​ ​letter​ ​that​ ​“85​ ​percent​ ​of​ ​the​ ​chamber’s​ ​membership​ ​consists​ ​of​ ​small businesses.”​ ​​ But​ ​most​ ​of​ ​their​ ​funding​ ​comes​ ​from​ ​a​ ​small​ ​percentage​ ​of​ ​big​ ​donors.​ ​​​The​ ​U.S.​ ​Chamber is​ ​dominated​ ​by​ ​oil​ ​companies,​ ​pharmaceutical​ ​giants,​ ​and​ ​other​ ​polluting​ ​industries.​ ​​ ​

And​ ​big​ ​money calls​ ​the​ ​shots.​ ​​ ​Even​ ​though​ ​most​ ​of​ ​the​ ​CEOs​ ​on​ ​local​ chambers​ ​voted​ ​to​ ​support​ ​raising​ ​the​ ​minimum raise,​ ​48​ ​state​ ​chambers​ ​have​ ​publicly​ ​opposed​ ​minimum​ ​wage​ ​increases​ ​and​ ​paid​ ​sick​ ​leave​ ​policies. Both​ ​measures​ ​are​ ​explicitly​ ​opposed​ ​in​ ​the​ ​U.S.​ ​Chamber’s​ ​2016​ ​policy​ ​platform.​ ​​ ​​ ​

Corporate​ ​interests are​ ​influencing​ ​the​ ​priorities​ ​of​ ​the​ ​state​ ​chambers​ ​of​ commerce​ ​even​ ​when​ ​that​ ​agenda​ ​contradicts the​ ​opinions​ ​of​ ​their​ ​local​ ​business​ ​members,​ ​rather​ ​than​ ​giving​ ​them​ ​voice,​ ​as​ ​Menor-McNamara​ ​touts in​ ​her​ ​letter.

She​ ​writes​ ​that​ ​the​ ​chamber​ ​works​ ​to​ ​“reduce​ ​the​ ​over-regulation​ ​that​ ​consumes​ ​time,​ ​adds​ ​cost​ ​and threatens​ ​entrepreneurship​ ​…”​ ​​ ​This​ ​is​ ​code​ ​for​ ​making​ ​profit​ ​priority​ ​over​ ​the​ ​health​ ​and​ ​welfare​ ​of​ ​the community.​ ​​ ​

In​ ​2009,​ ​the​ ​Chamber​ ​of​ ​Commerce​ ​lobbied​ ​against​ ​climate​ ​change​ ​legislation​ ​introduced by​ ​Congress,​ ​as​ ​it​ ​might​ ​be​ ​”economically​ ​disruptive​ ​of​ ​business​ ​and​ ​industry​ ​activities.”​ ​​A​ ​number​ ​of companies​ ​left​ ​the​ ​chamber​ ​because​ ​of​ ​its​ ​stance​ ​on​ ​climate​ ​change​ ​regulations,​ ​including​ ​Apple​ ​who stated,​ ​“We​ ​would​ ​prefer​ ​that​ ​the​ ​chamber​ ​take​ ​a​ ​more​ ​progressive​ ​stance​ ​on​ ​this​ ​critical​ ​issue​ ​and​ ​play a​ ​constructive​ ​role​ ​in​ ​addressing​ ​the​ ​climate​ ​crisis.”​ ​​ ​

Nike​ ​also​ ​criticized​ ​the​ ​chamber’s​ ​challenge​ ​of​ ​the US​ ​EPA’s​ ​authority​ ​to​ ​regulate​ ​carbon​ ​dioxide​ ​emissions​ ​as​ ​air​ ​pollution​ ​by​ ​stepping​ ​down​ ​from​ ​their board​ ​of​ ​directors.​ ​​ ​The​ ​chamber​ ​spent​ ​considerable​ ​resources​ ​in​ ​2010​ ​getting​ ​over​ ​100,000​ ​books about​ ​the​ ​potential​ ​perils​ ​of​ ​government​ ​regulation​ ​of​ ​fossil​ ​fuel​ ​into​ ​the​ ​classrooms​ ​across​ ​the​ ​country.

The​ ​chamber​ ​has​ ​been​ ​anti​-union​ ​and​ ​opposed​ ​legislation​ ​that​ ​would​ ​make​ ​it​ ​easier​ ​for​ ​people​ ​to​ ​join unions.​ ​​ ​Working​ ​with​ ​corporate​ ​front​ ​groups​ ​like​ ​the​ ​Coalition​ ​for​ ​Democratic​ ​Work​ ​Place​, ​they​ ​have spent​ ​more​ ​than​ ​30​ ​million​ ​on​ ​a​ ​TV​ ​advertising​ ​campaign​ ​attacking​ ​the​ ​Employee​ ​Free​ ​Choice​ ​Act supported​ ​by​ ​unions.

The​ ​U.​ ​S.​ ​Chamber​ ​has​ ​created​ ​the​ ​​RECORD​,​ ​a​ ​multimillion-dollar​ ​media​ ​weapon​ ​in​ ​its​ ​campaign​ ​against lawyers​ ​who​ ​file​ ​individual’s​ ​suits​ ​against​ ​big​ ​businesses.

In​ ​2010​ ​two​ ​national​ ​watchdog​ ​groups​ ​filed​ ​complaints​ ​with​ ​the​ ​U.S.​ ​IRS​ ​asking​ ​the​ ​agency​ ​to​ ​investigate the​ ​Chamber​ ​for​ ​criminal​ ​fraud​ ​and​ ​money​ ​laundering.​ ​​ ​The​ ​groups​ ​alleged​ ​that​ ​the​ ​chamber​ ​illegally funneled​ ​donations​ ​from​ ​a​ ​wealthy​ ​charitable​ ​foundation​ ​into​ ​its​ ​political​ ​battles.​ ​​ ​

In​ ​2010​ ​there​ ​were charges​ ​that​ ​six​ ​of​ ​the​ ​largest​ ​health​ ​insurance​ ​companies​ ​in​ ​the​ ​US​ ​had​ ​been​ ​secretly​ ​funneling​ ​millions of​ ​dollars​ ​to​ ​the​ ​U.S.​ ​Chamber​ ​of​ ​Commerce​ ​to​ ​oppose​ ​health​ ​reform.​ ​​ A​ ​chamber​ ​official​ ​in​ ​a​ ​deposition acknowledged​ ​that​ ​the​ ​chamber​ ​had​ ​collaborated​ ​with​ ​at​ ​least​ ​six​ ​outside​ ​groups​ ​to​ ​advance​ ​its​ ​agenda to​ ​avoid​ ​garnering​ ​unwanted​ ​critical​ ​attention.

The​ ​chamber​ ​has​ ​longstanding​ ​ties​ ​to​ ​the​ ​tobacco​ ​industry.​ ​​ ​U.S.​ ​Chamber​ ​has​ ​worked​ ​to​ ​block anti-smoking​ ​efforts​ ​worldwide.​ ​The​ ​New​ ​York​ ​Times​ ​documented​ ​in​ ​a​ ​2015​ ​story,​ ​“From​ ​Ukraine​ ​to Uruguay,​ ​Moldova​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Philippines,​ ​the​ ​U.S.​ ​Chamber​ ​of​ ​Commerce​ ​and​ ​its​ ​foreign​ ​affiliates​ ​have become​ ​the​ ​hammer​ ​for​ ​the​ ​tobacco​ ​industry,​ ​engaging​ ​in​ ​a​ ​worldwide​ ​effort​ ​to​ ​fight​ ​anti-smoking​ ​laws of​ ​all​ ​kinds​ ​according​ ​to​ ​government​ ​ministers,​ ​lobbyists,​ ​lawmakers …”

Currently​, ​the​ ​chamber​ ​spends​ ​more​ ​money​ ​on​ ​lobbying​ ​than​ ​any​ ​other​ ​interest​ ​group.​ ​​ ​The​ ​U.S. Chamber​ ​has​ ​close​ ​ties​ ​to​ ​American​ ​Crossroads​ ​and​ ​other​ ​right-wing​ ​groups.​ ​​ ​They​ ​are​ ​not​ ​bipartisan.​ ​​ ​In 2010,​ ​93​ ​percent​ ​of​ ​reported​ ​expenditures​ ​went​ ​to​ ​support​ ​Republicans.​ ​​ ​The​ ​6 ​percent​ ​spent​ ​to support​ ​Democrats​ ​was​ ​spent​ ​on​ ​generic,​ ​non-candidate​ ​specific​ ​ads.

“The​ ​U.S.​ ​Chamber​ ​is​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​largest​ ​conduits​ ​of​ ​dark​ ​money​ ​in​ ​the​ ​country,​ ​but​ ​it​ ​refuses​ ​to​ ​disclose its​ ​donors,”​ ​says​ ​Lisa​ ​Gilbert,​ ​director​ ​of​ ​Public​ ​Citizen’s​ ​Congress​ ​Watch​ ​division.​ ​​ ​

Frank​ ​Knapp,​ ​who leads​ ​the​ ​South​ ​Carolina​ ​Small​ ​Business​ ​Chamber​ ​of​ ​Commerce​ ​which​ ​has​ ​declined​ ​to​ ​affiliate​ ​with​ ​the national​ ​group,​ ​states,​ ​“They​ ​get​ ​the​ ​majority​ ​of​ ​their​ ​funding​ ​from​ ​big​ ​businesses.​ ​​ ​That’s​ ​who​ ​drives their​ ​decisions.”​ ​​ ​

His​ ​group​ ​has​ ​supported​ ​the​ ​health​ ​care​ ​bill​ ​and​ ​financial​ ​reform​ ​and​ ​favors​ ​legislation to​ ​curb​ ​global​ ​warming.

In​ ​lieu​ ​of​ ​the​ ​U.S.​ ​Chamber​ ​of​ ​Commerce’s​ ​opposition​ ​to​ ​Climate​ ​Action,​ ​and​ ​obstruction​ ​to​ ​important public​ ​health​ ​issues​ ​and​ ​issues​ ​of​ ​economic​ ​and​ ​social​ ​justice,​ ​we’d​ ​like​ ​to​ ​know​ ​ask​ ​the​ ​members​ ​the Hawaii​ ​state​ ​and​ ​local​ ​chapters​ ​of​ ​the​ ​chamber​ ​to​ ​question​ ​their​ ​affiliation​ ​and​ ​if​ ​the​ ​chamber​ ​is representative​ ​of​ ​their​ ​priorities​ ​and​ ​values.​ ​Then​ ​we​ ​can​ ​have​ ​a​ ​clearer​ ​picture​ ​if​ ​they​ ​truly​ ​”help everyone​ ​in​ ​Hawaii’” ​and​ ​not​ ​just​ ​big​ ​business​ ​interest.​ ​​ ​And​ ​current​ ​members​ ​may​ ​want​ ​to​ ​question​ ​if the​ ​chamber​ ​is​ ​representative​ ​of​ ​their​ ​priorities​ ​and​ ​values.

•••

Laurel​ ​Brier and Pamela​ ​Burrell for​ ​Apollo​ ​Kaua`i Climate​ ​Action​ ​Group

0 Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.