Although President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Feb. 7 covered a lot of topics, from COVID-19 recovery to abortion rights and Russia’s war with Ukraine, the President made several points that the business community should pay attention to, from immigration issues to unionization.
Small businesses will be supported, but specific details are unknown
President Biden emphasized that the federal government, especially Vice President Kamala Harris, would support small businesses, implying that “criminals” who lied and got money from relief acts like the Paycheck Protection Program and Restaurant Revitalization Fund would be punished.
“The Vice President will continue her work to ensure more small businesses can access capital and the historic laws we enacted,” Biden said. “As we emerge from this crisis stronger, I’m also doubling down on prosecuting criminals who stole relief money meant to keep workers and small businesses afloat during the pandemic.”
Noticeably missing from these remarks were promises of any additional relief for small businesses.
The PRO Act would make it harder for companies to union bust
President Biden reiterated his support of unions and minimum wage workers by pleading with Congress to vote for the Protect the Right to Organize act, which would double down on the rights for employees to organize and protest poor working conditions and wages without fear of union-busting or being punished by their parent companies.
Although Biden did not directly name companies like Starbucks or Amazon, the correlation to these cases was strongly implied:
“We’re banning those [non-compete clause] agreements so companies have to compete for workers and pay them what they’re worth,” Biden said. “I’m so sick and tired of companies breaking the law by preventing workers from organizing. Pass the PRO Act because workers have a right to form a union. And let’s guarantee all workers a living wage.”
Biden did not say anything about raising the minimum wage during this speech, however.
The federal government is fighting inflation and supply chain issues
Macroeconomic conditions have been affecting restaurants ever since the pandemic began to wind down, and the federal government is trying to push back on challenges like rampant inflation and supply chain challenges.
“We’re going to make sure the supply chain for America begins in America,” Biden said.
The President also referred to the Inflation Reduction Act passed last summer which would bring down healthcare costs, and now that it’s slowly coming down, though not down to levels that the federal government would prefer.
“Gas prices are down $1.50 from their peak; food inflation is coming down, not fast enough but coming down,” Biden said. “Inflation has fallen every month for the last six months while take-home pay has gone up.”
Immigration reform is needed, but not for essential workers
The President tread lightly on a contentious topic last night: immigration. Biden attempted to reach across the aisle and recognize that while immigration needs to crack down on dangerous immigrants and drug trafficking, that we should at the same time, make it easier for people to come who come to the United States looking to better their lives and find work. Many of these immigrants end up working in restaurants.
“If we don’t pass my comprehensive immigration reform, at least pass my plan to provide the equipment and officers to secure the border,” Biden said. “And a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, those on temporary status, farm workers, essential workers.”
The unemployment rate is at 50-year low
According to a CNN fact-check, Biden’s statement that the current unemployment rate — 3.4% — is a 50-year low, and was cut in half from the 6.1% unemployment rate when Biden took office in Jan. 2021. While this might sound like good news for businesses, it should be concerning for restaurant operators who are still struggling with finding workers. Here are some ways operators can look internally to improve retention rates.
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