Kati Capozzi

GUEST COMMENTARY: Alaskans want to keep right to work for themselves

Alaskans have always had an independent, pioneering spirit. It is no surprise then, that a recent poll commissioned by the Alaska Chamber, Alaska Trucking Association, Alaska Support Industry Alliance and the Associated General Contractors of Alaska found, by a 3-to-1 margin, Alaskans prefer the right to work for themselves when, where and for whom they want. A new law under consideration by the U.S. Senate, the “Protecting the Right to Organize” Act or PRO Act, would limit not only Alaskans’ work choices but also our businesses’ ability to adapt. While supporters of the PRO Act claim it is a tool to support workers, its provisions deprive workers of fundamental rights, significantly reduces workers’ options to choose independent contract work, and increases costs on small businesses by requiring them to hire full-time staff at a time when many are trying to get back on their feet. One of the most concerning elements of the PRO Act is the inclusion of a more restrictive form of the “ABC” test, which is used to determine if someone should be classified as an employee or an independent contractor. California included this “ABC” test in their disastrous 2019 “Assembly Bill 5” only to find it prevented everyone from teachers to writers to retirees from working as independent contractors. To date, California has passed dozens of “exemptions’” to the bill and they are still going. Our poll found Alaskans don’t want to repeat California’s mistakes around independent contractors. When Alaskans learned more about how the PRO Act would drastically alter current federal labor laws and significantly affect who was able to be an independent contractor in Alaska, more than 60 percent of Alaskans opposed the bill. This was true even among current union members who opposed the PRO Act by 57 percent after learning about its provisions. What’s more, 85 percent of Alaskans agreed that it was important they be able to choose to work as independent contractors. More than 80 percent believe federal laws should continue to protect the rights of Alaskans to work as independent contractors. Alaska’s federal representatives should take heed: Alaska’s workers don’t want new mandates or classifications. Instead, they overwhelmingly want to preserve their choice to be independent contractors and work when and for whom they choose. Further, Alaska’s businesses — like many around the country — are struggling to fill vacancies as pandemic restrictions are eased and consumer confidence grows. Additional regulatory costs and restrictions on businesses already unable to find workers will only further hamper their ability to reset and restart after struggling through the last 15 months. Now is not the time to implement failed California policies that dictate relationships between workers and businesses. It didn’t work for California, and it certainly won’t work for Alaska. Alicia Siira is executive director of Associated General Contractors of Alaska. Joe Michel is executive director of the Alaska Trucking Association. Rebecca Logan is president and CEO of the Alaska Support Industry Alliance. Kati Capozzi is president and CEO of the Alaska Chamber.

Alaska Chamber begins year with new energy for business advocacy

Alaska lawmakers convened in Juneau late last month and the Chamber kicked the session off with face-to-face meetings with the governor, members of the administration, and nearly every legislator. This year’s Chamber team combines fresh energy with some familiar faces. At the top of that list, and leading the Chamber’s efforts, are Kati Capozzi and Allen Hippler. Alaska Chamber President and CEO Kati Capozzi is a career advocate for Alaska business. Capozzi took the helm at the Chamber in 2019. In many ways, assuming leadership of Alaska’s premier business association is a homecoming for Capozzi. She once led the Chamber’s advocacy events and communications before focusing on resource development issues and ballot initiatives. Capozzi brings a statewide network of contacts along with a wealth of regulatory and policy knowledge. Allen Hippler, vice president at Northrim Bank and longtime Alaska Chamber board member, took over as chairman at the Chamber’s annual fall forum last October. Hippler has served as treasurer, on the Executive Committee, and as the Legislative Affairs Committee Chair. Kati Capozzi, President/CEO, Alaska Chamber I love that we start the year with business leaders from across the state converging on Juneau. The challenge this year is to advance business issues with a legislature fraught with how to address the lack of a fiscal plan. Not to mention what should prove to be an eventful election year. But we have the team to do just that. I think the Alaska Chamber will be able to make great strives this year. We have sharp, hardworking legislators on both sides of the aisle and a governor that’s willing to listen to the business community and is bullish on growing the economic pie. We have an Alaska delegation in Washington that is fighting and winning on resource and regulatory issues here at home. No other state is enjoying the federal ‘wins’ like Alaska is right now. I’m excited for 2020. Allen Hippler, Board Chair, Alaska Chamber The Alaska Chamber’s mission is statewide, and we take that mission very seriously. We have a number of meaningful positions that impact every employer in our state. Look at our natural resources, for instance. We’ve been working to ensure that Alaska has the best, most scientifically sound, permitting process in the world. I see the tremendous impact of our natural resources when I visit my family in the Valley. I see it with my friends and previous coworkers in bush Alaska. And I see it with the businesses coming into the bank. Alaska is one of the few states that doesn’t have a personal finance or economic education requirement at the K-12 level. Providing access to financial learning is a business issue, it’s a social welfare issue, and it’s a workforce development issue in every Alaska community. It’s an issue that businesses, educators, families, and legislators can all get behind, and there’s no reason why we can’t get that requirement in place this year. What do I want to accomplish as board chair? I want visibility. Front-of-mind awareness. I want the economic issues that let families live and work in Alaska to be the most discussed topics in the legislature and in the media.” ^ For a complete review of the Alaska Chamber’s 2020 advocacy platform, visit alaskachamber.com
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