News coverage during reopening process helps the small business voice be heard
Throughout the turmoil created by the pandemic and ensuing economic crisis, NFIB in Virginia has made sure the voice of small business is heard far and wide with the intent of influencing public opinion and state policies. During Governor Ralph Northam’s reopening process, State Director Nicole Riley has received a significant amount of media coverage in state and national news outlets by releasing statements explaining the impact of the small business shutdowns, the hardship state emergency regulations on workplaces would create, and reacting to the Governor’s briefings as he moves the state through various reopening phases.
Just this week when Governor Northam explained that small businesses must enforce mask mandates and announced an enforcement effort on businesses reportedly violating COVID-19 Executive Orders, Riley explained to the Washington Post that putting a business owner in the position of “enforcer” may make them more vulnerable to lawsuits.
Washington Post, 7/14/2020
Nicole Riley, Virginia director of the National Federation of Independent Business, praised Northam’s decision to crack down on violators rather than tighten restrictions on all businesses. But she warned that his order could put some business owners in the awkward position of playing “the enforcer for the government” by telling customers they can’t enter without a mask.
“This opens the door for lawsuits against the business and in return, the state should offer them legal immunity,” Riley said.
In a story Tuesday by the Associated Press, Riley explained that any enforcement should give the business the benefit of the doubt because the majority of small business owners care about their employees and the public and do not want to intentionally endanger them.
NFIB in Virginia is using both direct lobbying in combination with media coverage to represent our members when it comes to both legislation and regulatory issues.
During recent regulatory hearings by the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry to implement emergency workplace standards in light of the COVID-19 virus, NFIB has routinely spoken in opposition, explaining that current CDC guidelines that most businesses are already following are sufficient. An op-ed by Nicole Riley ran in the Free Lance-Star on that topic. Here is an excerpt:
Free Lance-Star, 6/28/2020
A panel of unelected citizens and agency chiefs who make up Virginia’s Safety and Health Codes Board are about rush into place an emergency workplace regulation that will impact every business in the commonwealth with little input from those who would be drastically affected: Virginia’s employers.
This broad, rigid, one-size-fits-all mandate, pushed by labor to address worker concerns about the spread of COVID-19, is likely to become permanent and thus unable to evolve as science on the virus changes.
As small business owners, you can help in this broad media effort. If you are willing to speak to reporters on certain topics or if you would consider writing a letter to the editor in your local paper, we can assist you with background information and to prepare. Even offering our team background information on how an issue impacts your business helps us to speak on issues that impact our members. If you are willing to help, Contact Grassroots Manager Sharon Sykes, [email protected].