AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER:
SMALL BUSINESS AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY
AGAINST FAMILY LEAVE
OUR STORY so far has concentrated on the corporate supporters of human capital investment policies and how organizational limits have diminished their expressed political support for legislative initiatives. Yet the tale of business reaction to these policies is incomplete without attention to the opposition. The organizational weaknesses of large-firm supporters of policies for human capital investment become even more apparent when viewed in contrast to the political strengths of small-business associations, the core opponents of these policies. Although small employers fall across a wide ideological spectrum, the major associations representing them have a definite conservative slant. The members of the small-business lobby (such as the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, the National Restaurant Association, and the National Retail Federation) ardently desire to cut back the welfare state and to block new government initiatives.
This chapter has two purposes. First, it completes our case comparisons with a look at business involvement in work-family policy, specifically in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The limits to corporate policy capacity that contributed to the demise of large-employer support for health reform were even more pronounced in the Family and Medical Leave Act. There is nearly universal agreement that the health reform plan was deeply flawed, and one can understand managers' misgivings about the product. In comparison, family leave should have been an easier sell to many managers, as it was standard operating procedure in most large firms and backed by over 80 percent of Americans. Yet large employers never made it to the legislative table.
Second, the chapter uses the cases of the FMLA and the Republican's Medicare reform proposal to illustrate the superior lobbying faculty of small business. Major small-business groups have struggled to overcome a least-common-denominator politics with institutional rules to facilitate political action. The most important innovation has been the use of singleissue coalitions, which may include some large companies but are typi