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“Small business”, family business flexing muscles, making headlines on the minimum wage and religious values/ health care benefits.

We know, of course, that small business has great economic clout — creating jobs, inventing products and serving communities. But now small companies, as well as closely-held family enterprises, are major players in the national discourse on low-paid workers and  controversial health care benefits in the Affordable Care Act.

“Fast Food Chains Discover Advantages To Offering Workers Better Wages”, The New York Times reports in a dispatch on how a New Hampshire buritto restaurant and other fast food outlets are making debate on raising the federal minimum wage academic (read full story at

Their rationale is right out of the corporate social responsibility playbook:

“These companies’ founders” The Times explains, “were intent on paying their workers more than the going rate partly because they wanted to do the right thing, they said, and partly because they thought this would help their companies thrive long term.” On the social side, one restaurant owner points out that, “If we’re talking about building a business that’s successful, but our employees can’t go home and pay their bills, to me that success is a farce.” On the good-business level, the above-minimum pay enables these entrepreneurs to pick from among many talented job applicants and, because of lowered turnover, reduce training costs.

The Hobby Lobby Stores recent success at the Supreme Court is of a very different nature; it is an example of how religious values in a family-controlled company can affect public policy. At issue was whether in such a company the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 protects the company from a government mandate that the company leadership feels is inimical to its religious values. The issue — and related issues often involving similar companies — is wending its way upward in the federal court system, so it is likely to be in the news for some time.  Read related New York Times piece on this at