Want a government contract? Pay a decent wage.

LAS VEGAS - JUNE 03:  Construction workers pro...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I probably shouldn’t be shocked that there’s already mounting opposition to  the proposed rule to favor companies that pay decent wages when it comes to handing out government contracts.  Small business will be decimated, the critics warn.  It’s simply a gift to organized labor, they cry. It’ll drive up the deficit, they moan. (Claudia Deutsch – The Bottom Line, True/Slant)

Claudia Deutsch and the opposition groups are responding to a New York Times article describing proposed new criteria for awarding federal contracts. It puts my teeth on edge when retro business groups such as the U.S. Chamber and the NFIB set up this false polarity between small business and employees or labor groups. As a business owner, I firmly believe we are all better off when those who work receive a livable wage, which includes essential benefits such as access to health care. If my business cannot survive if I pay decent wages, then it is not a viable business and should close.

Here in Vermont, I was pleased to learn recently that Representative Suzi Wizawaty and others have introduced H.748, which would award state contracts based in part on the working conditions, salary and benefits of the employees. The same criteria would be used to award tax incentives, referred to more appropriately as subsidies, and to evaluate the return on these investments of taxpayer dollars. Our elected officials, at both the federal and state level, need to hear from business owners who understand the false dichotomy of “small business success” or “decent employee wages” is a relic from the past.

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