This story was originally published in the Nebraska Examiner.
LINCOLN — A letter delivered Thursday from more than 115 Nebraska business leaders tells Gov. Jim Pillen and state lawmakers that two proposals attacking LGBTQ+ rights are hurting job recruitment and retention in the state.
One measure, Legislative Bill 574, would block minors from receiving gender-altering procedures while the other, LB 575, would ban transgender girls from competing in girls sports in schools.
‘Harmful social legislation’
The letter calls the two bills “harmful social legislation” that are bad for Nebraska businesses in their efforts to retain workers, recruit new employees and fill the estimated 80,000 job vacancies in the state.
“Nebraska can avoid major competitive risks — and win investment, business, and talent — by sending a clear and consistent signal that all are welcome here and Nebraska is open for business,” it stated.
The letter follows a similar message delivered last week by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce urging diversity and inclusion and avoiding laws that threaten Nebraska’s image “as the warm and welcoming state.”
Gov. Pillen’s office, in response to the letter, said that “protecting Nebraska kids is good for business.”
“We welcome all people to Nebraska, but we should not let kids make irreversible life-altering decisions until they are adults,” the governor said.
‘Inclusive environment’ demanded
But the business leaders and Omaha chamber see it differently, as driving away potential employees and business conferences from the state when the “next generation of workers” are insisting on “inclusive” workplaces.
“When recruiting top talent, a welcoming stance toward all people matters — not just for marginalized workers,” the letter said. “The next generation of workers, Millennials and Generation Z, aren’t just wanting inclusive environments, they are demanding it.”
LB 574 on final reading
LB 574, which would ban gender-altering care for minors, has advanced to final round debate after its main sponsor, Omaha Sen. Kathleen Kauth, agreed to discuss possible amendments to the proposal, which has not yet been set for third-round debate.
LB 575, or the “Sports and Spaces Act,” has not advanced out of the Legislature’s Education Committee.
In response to Thursday’s letter, Kauth said the business leaders are ignoring that conservatives feel very differently about her bills.
She said she didn’t think that people would move because of these issues, but if they did, Nebraska would benefit from workers leaving “very liberal states” that have adopted pro-trans legislation.
“There are a lot of people with voices who are saying ‘yes’ we want these policies,” Kauth said.
Introduction of the bills has inspired a session-long series of filibusters led by Omaha Sens. Machaela Cavanaugh and Megan Hunt in protest. They maintain that such bills are “hateful” and involve decisions that should be made by parents and medical professionals, and not government.
Nationally, bills that block gender-affirming care have been introduced and passed in several conservative states. Advocates say that minors should wait until they’re older to undertake surgeries or medications that could have life-altering impacts.
As business leaders in Nebraska, we are grateful for the leadership and support shown from the legislature to the business community.
An issue we have a high degree of interest in is improving Nebraska’s ability to retain and attract talent to meet business needs. According to the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce, there are currently 32 available workers per 100 open jobs, meaning there are nearly three jobs per available worker in Nebraska.
The challenges we face in filling the approximately 80,000 positions we have available in the State is hurting our business’ ability to compete and meet client expectations. It is also impacting our current employees who may be overly burdened with assuming the workload and responsibilities from the jobs left unfilled.
Due to our limited talent pool, many of our businesses are being forced to create jobs in other states that we would prefer to grow in Nebraska. For those businesses who are unable to hire outside the state, they simply need to try to find a way to continue without adequate workforce. Some have given up and closed, others continue to work hard to figure it out.
We fully understand our role as business owners and leaders to solve this issue. However, the State can and should help as well. We commend you for the work you have done related to tax policy that is helpful for talent attraction and retention.
However, the current social legislation being considered is equally important regarding the impact on talent. How we handle and vote on the current legislation being considered could either help us or hurt us.
The image and message of some of the current legislative policies (e.g. LB 574 and 575) sends a message to the marginalized communities that live here and for those of us who love and care for all Nebraskans is nothing short of discouraging and disappointing. The image this casts outside of our state is equally discouraging and disappointing.
Nebraska can avoid major competitive risks –and win investment, business, and talent –by sending a clear and consistent signal that all are welcome here and Nebraska is open for business. This message matters to large and small businesses, to tourism and travel bookers, and to talented workers.
When recruiting top talent, a welcoming stance toward all people matters—not just for marginalized workers. The next generation of workers, Millennials and Generation Z, aren’t just wanting inclusive environments, they are demanding it.
According to Pew Research, by the year 2025, 75% of the global workforce is expected to be made up of Millennials, therefore this is something Nebraska must be ready for in order to be a great place to do business in the future.
Businesses are watching state legislatures. They are investing in states with laws that foster diversity, equity, inclusion, and a robust workforce. And states that sanction discrimination simply cannot compete. Non-discrimination protections are an investment in stronger communities and a stronger economy.
Nebraska does not experience much net positive people migration as it is. This type of legislation makes it even more difficult for those of us who are working hard to improve migration performance.
We ask you to support Nebraska businesses by improving our ability to retain and attract talent for our workforces by voting against harmful social legislation like LB 574 and 575.
A Novel Idea Bookstore
American National Bank
Audubon Great Plains
Boldly Go Philanthropy
Category One Consulting
Collective for Youth
Combined Health Agencies Drive
Community Information Trust
Eagle Printing & Sign
Ervin & Smith
Family Service Lincoln
Fiedler Law Firm P.L.C.
Field Day Development
Friedman Law Offices PC LLO
Front Porch Investments
Gregg Grossman Inc.
Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln
Heartland Center for Reproductive Medicine
Heartland Chiropractic Clinic
Heartland Family Service
Heartland Workers Center
Heartland Workforce Solutions
Holy Name Housing Corporation
Hope Harbor Inc.
Indigo Bridge Books
Kids Can Community Center
Kutak Rock LLP
League of Women Voters Greater Omaha
LUX Center for the Arts
Medical Maize LLC
Method Holdings Ltd.
MOEC (Metro Omaha Education Consortium)
Nebraska AIDS Project
Nebraska Children’s Home Society (NCHS)
Nebraska Civic Engagement Table
Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative
No More Empty Pots
Nonprofit Association of the Midlands (NAM)
Omaha Academy of Ballet
Omaha Community Foundation
Omaha Girls Rock
Omaha Public Schools Foundation
Omaha Zoo Foundation
Partnership 4 Kids
Pearl Street Counseling LLC
Prime Choice Insurance
Principal Financial Group
Radio Talking Book Service
River City Gender Alliance – RCGA
Robert Hancock & Co.
Sam & Louie’s Scottsbluff
Saving Grace Perishable Food Rescue Inc.
She’s Electable LLC
Signature Performance Inc.
Solstice & The Veil
Sun Valley Landscaping
Sunrise Inspirations PC
Ten Thousand Villages
The Bridge Behavioral Health
The HUB Central Access Point for Young Adults
The Rose Theater
Urban Abbey UMC
Vis Major Brewing Co
Voices for Children in Nebraska
Women’s Fund of Omaha
YWCA Grand Island
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