Common Sense Prevails

January 7th, 2014

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had previously issued and finalized a rule that would have required all employers, regardless of size, to post a notice informing all employees of the right to unionize. Last year, in two separate court cases, the federal appeals court struck down the rule citing that the NLRB overreached their authority. The last resort for the Agency to save this rule would be to appeal with the US Supreme Court, which they declined to do, and finally put an end to this madness.
The controversial regulations would have required most private employers to put up 11-inch by 17-inch posters explaining workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act. The law gives workers the right to form a union, bargain collectively, and strike to improve their working conditions.
Our industry has long supported strong employer/employee relations. We work hard to provide safe working environments. The law remains in effect as it always has been… but common sense has prevailed!

Marci Kinter

Green Chemistry – More than a Passing Fad…

September 19th, 2013

California’s regulation for Safer Consumer Products becomes effective October 1. So what does this actually mean for us? First, it signals the first truly comprehensive approach to integrating green chemistry into mainstream products. Based on the meetings I have been attending these past few days, states continue to introduce, pass and legislate programs that will take hard looks at chemicals we use.

California states that their regulations “…require manufacturers or other responsible entities to seek safer alternatives to harmful chemical ingredients in widely used products, offering California the opportunity to lead the way in producing safer versions of goods already in demand around the world.” Next up – the development of their initial list of chemicals of concern, followed by the initial listing of products. Those manufacturers who produce, distribute, sell or in any way have any of the identified products in the state will be required to take actions. The list of chemicals is forthcoming by the end of this month, with the first list of products due by April of next year.

All are watching to see how this program works. If this program does roll out successfully, we will begin to see other states, either through mandatory legislation or voluntary programs, require the same level of identification and assessment.

Stay tuned… more to come..

Submitted by Marci Kinter

It Took TEN YEARS – But Finally a Reality!

August 12th, 2013

Well, actually longer. Although this rule was first proposed in 2003, SGIA started working on this issue as early as 1993. Finally, the US Environmental Protection Agency has released the final rule on the handling and disposal of used shop towels. Actually, the name of the rulemaking is Conditional Exemption from Solid and Hazardous Waste for Solvent –Contaminated Wipes. Yes, it is a mouthful. The question on everyone’s mind is what exactly does this rule do?

The rule sets out the requirements for the handling of disposable wipes and does allow these wipes to be deposited in the trash rather than handled as hazardous waste. Of course there are limitations as well as requirements regarding how these disposables need to be handled. If managed correctly, then these wipes DO NOT need to be counted towards hazardous waste. No free liquids of course, and they can be sent to landfill or municipal waste combustor.

This rule does codify that reusable wipes are NOT considered solid waste and do not need to be counted towards hazardous waste at all and, of course, there are handling requirements.

In order for imaging facilities to take advantage of this new rulemaking, your state will need to adopt it into their hazardous waste regulations. We are starting that process… Stay tuned for updates. Take a look at our fact sheet on this rule. You can find it on the First to Know site, under Environmental!

Marci Kinter

Happenings in Congress

July 11th, 2013

Just when you think you are on the path to understanding the nuances of the new and critical laws impacting you and your business, changes occur! Last week, the Obama Administration announced that it would delay the implementation of the employer mandate requirement found in the Affordable Care Act. This is an interesting announcement, especially as it will be delayed until after the mid-year elections. One might begin to think that there are political motivations behind this decision.

On the heels of this announcement, House Republicans are calling for a delay in the implementation of the individual mandate requirement. In fact, they are expected to vote on this very shortly. Stay tuned to this page for updates on the progress of these two issues.

In the meantime, regulations implementing the Affordable Care Act continue to move forward. Yes, it is definitely summertime in Washington, DC – hot, humid and conflicting messages.

Immigration reform is another hot issue right now. The Senate has passed its version of reform legislation and the ball is now with the House of Representatives. The House Republicans met in a closed door session to discuss the path forward on this issue. Interestingly enough, Republican members offered concerns regarding the level of trust with the Obama administration to enforce any  new immigration laws in the wake of its decision to delay the enforcement of a key element of the president’s own signature healthcare law.

In this case, the old saying of actions speak louder than words rings true… Stay tuned as SGIA watches these dramas unfold…

Submitted by Marci Kinter

An In-Depth Look into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

May 24th, 2013

On March 14, 2013, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to 17 of the nation’s largest health insurance companies requesting analyses of the effect of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) policies, mandates, taxes, and fees on health insurance premiums.

Here is what they found out:

The report reveals consumers purchasing health insurance on the individual market may face premium increases of nearly 100 percent on average, with potential highs eclipsing 400 percent. Meanwhile, small businesses can expect average premium increases in the small group market of up to 50 percent, with potential highs over 100 percent.

For the individual market, the materials provided to the committee indicate that consumers who purchase insurance after full implementation of the PPACA will be hit with substantial premium increases. One insurer noted that 45 states and the District of Columbia “will see significant premium increases.”

For the small group market, according to materials submitted by one insurer, small businesses in “nearly all states will see premium increases.”  One insurer that offers small group plans observes that that “[t]he ACA’s small group health tax credit incentive program is temporary and very small.”  To make matters worse, due to the administration’s inability to “meet tight deadlines,” the PPACA program “intended to provide affordable health insurance to small businesses and their employees” has been delayed.

In providing this information to the Committee, the insurance companies stated that “we are providing the Committee with documents that provide a high level, preliminary analysis of the impact that the provisions of PPACA that have not yet gone into effect could have on our products and rates in 2014”. And, further that “all of the analyses provided are considered to be our best estimates of the anticipated impacts of PPACA based upon the rules and regulations released and the information available at the time the materials were prepared.”

More information on this report can be found at the following House Committee web site: http://energycommerce.house.gov/rate-shock

Submitted by Marci Kinter

Retail Industry Leaders Association Issues 2013 Sustainability Report

May 6th, 2013

I recently read the Retail Industry Leaders Association’s (RILA) 2013 Retail Sustainability Report, Fueling Continuous Development, and found it both fascinating, as well as a parallel to sustainability efforts in our industry sector. The report also confirmed for me the longevity and staying power of corporate sustainability programs. Here are a few of my takeaways:

  1. Sustainability remains a long term goal for the retail industry – so much so that full time staff devoted to sustainability initiatives is becoming the norm. How about your company?
  2. Engaging with suppliers will become more important over the next five years. While the majority of the discussion focuses on products sold – it can also be extrapolated to include other supply chain partners. The question to ask is what are you doing to position yourself now?
  3. Compliance with environmental, health and safety regulations is important to retailers for their own operations. It tracks that this will be an important measuring stick for their supply chain. How are you doing? Are you in compliance? Can you prove it?
  4. AND, retailers’ compliance programs are DEEPLY aligned with their company’s sustainability initiatives…  WOW! Again, what are you doing??
  5. Risk management remains a crucial business objective. Question for you – how can you help maintain brand integrity?

The report states that sustainability continues to become MORE important to organizations, not less so.  So, as you will hear me state in my upcoming webinar, Corporate Sustainability – Yes, it is here to stay!

Submitted by Marci Kinter

What is your State Doing to Implement the Affordable Care Act?

April 5th, 2013

The final deadline has passed. All states have told the US Government their plans for implementing state exchanges, now called Small Business Health Options Programs (SHOP). The following states have been approved by the Department of Health and Human Services to move forward with their own program:  Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut. There are seven additional states that have gained conditional approval to establish their own programs: Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, Rhode Island, New York, Minnesota, and Kentucky. Finally, these seven will be entering into a state/federal partnership model: Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Delaware and West Virginia.

If your state is not listed, the marketplace within your state will be run by the federal government.

Let’s take a look at what a state marketplace might look like – Cover Oregon. Cover Oregon is the exchange program for small businesses operating in, yes Oregon. This program intends to move forward and to offer small businesses, starting in 2013, choices of health and dental programs.

Are you required, as a small business employer (fewer than 50 full-time employees) to participate? No.

If you are a small business and currently offer insurance, will it roll over to Cover Oregon? No.

Not all exchange/marketplaces will look exactly the same, but if you are in a state that does offer its own marketplace, take a moment to Google it. Not all exchanges/marketplaces are ready for business.  Insurance programs and premiums will be changing and more than likely increasing. As with any business decision, take a look at your options…

More to come.

Submitted by Marci Kinter

Working on Your Behalf

March 21st, 2013

Advocacy. Working for you, the industry. SGIA works tirelessly to represent you and to develop programs to keep you up to date, up to speed, and ready to face any new challenge that may come your way. We know that your first priority is moving product out the door, keeping your employees working and making sure that the bottom line remains solid. Our priority is to provide you with updates and tools that you can use to effectively manage and plan for the coming years.

Example: Affordable Care Act. Information is continually pushed out to you regarding how this important new law will impact you, your employees and your bottom line. Take advantage of the webinar archive to listen to the most recent presentation offered on this most important business topic.

Example: CPSIA. If this acronym is familiar, then sign up for the May 1 webinar. SGIA is working on a compliance program that will take you step by step through the implementation process.

Example: HazComm. Do you know that even after more than 24 years, this standard is still the most often violated standard? Changes are coming, which means a stronger enforcement presence by OSHA. Check out our overview and take a look at the member resources developed to help you understand the changes.

If you want to be the First to Know – take a minute and sign up for our alerts! And check back here often – See you soon!

Submitted by Marci Kinter

EPA Takes A Stance on Sustainability

January 24th, 2013

Leaving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa Jackson is making her mark regarding integrating sustainability principles into EPA. In 2010, Jackson asked the National Research Council’s Science and Technology for Sustainability Program, part of the National Academy of Science, to provide a framework for integrating sustainability “as a key driver of the agency’s activities.”

As a result, and not surprising, the Academy issued a 160 page report that was delivered to EPA in May 2011. Referred to as the “Green Book,” it provides recommendations for a sustainability approach that incorporates and goes beyond how the agency has assessed and managed the risks posed by pollutants – the basis of environmental policy since the 1980s.

The report recommended that EPA formally adopt as its sustainability paradigm the widely used “three pillars” approach – that is, considering the environmental, social and economic impacts of an agency action or decision.

In an excerpt from an interview with Jackson, outgoing Administrator for EPA, she believes the time has come to go further than previous efforts. And while it may seem a curious time for her to introduce this – just weeks before she departs the administration – she seems to truly believe that this is where the EPA needs to go.

“Sustainability has to be a cornerstone of our work, whether that’s internal in the organization or working with organizations like yours that are already on the cutting edge,” she told the executives at last week’s roundtable.

She also seems to understand the challenge her agency faces: “How do you take a concept like sustainability, which wasn’t as much talked about when some of these laws were passed, and ensure that you don’t break the laws, but you actually make real progress? And how do you make sure that it’s consistent with our mandates but also what’s needed in this day and age?”

Another open question is, what exactly does Jackson and her team mean by “sustainability?”

Another open question – will her successor continue this journey?

Submitted by Marci Kinter

Health Care Watch

December 14th, 2012

Implementation of the new health care legislation placed quite a bit of the work squarely within the states. It was assumed that individual states would do the work of setting up individual state exchanges to provide a clearinghouse of health insurance information for the public, and provide the mechanism that triggered enforcement of the law against those employers who were accused of violations.

There appears to be a flaw in the system. The number of states that have chosen to either not implement an exchange, thus capitulating the responsibility to the federal government, or have chosen to operate a hybrid system, also with a federal government role, continues to grow.
Twenty five states, most recently Pennsylvania and Tennessee, have told the Obama Administration that they will not be building their own state exchange.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett issued a statement declaring, “It would be irresponsible to put Pennsylvanians on the hook for an unknown amount of money to operate a system under rules that have not been fully written.”

An important wrinkle in the state’s consideration of whether to establish exchanges has emerged. A recent CATO Institute legal analysis has concluded that federal government-run exchanges that would operate in those states that choose against establishing their own are not statutorily allowed to trigger enforcement of the law against employers.

What remains to be seen is whether or not this is an issue that will be put before our court system. As we watch the implementation, we shall see how this, and other dramas, play out. Stay tuned…

Submitted by Marci Kinter