Over 115 business and charity executives from Nebraska have expressed their concern that laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community are harming the state’s ability to attract and retain talent. The executives have written to Governor Jim Pillen and state lawmakers to address Legislative Bill 575 and Legislative Bill 574, which would prevent transgender girls from participating in female athletics and prevent minors from getting gender-altering treatments, respectively.
The executives have described the bills as “harmful social legislation” that would make it more challenging for businesses in Nebraska to keep current employees, attract new ones, and fill the state’s expected 80,000 job openings. They have stated that Nebraska can avoid major competitive risks by sending a clear and consistent signal that all are welcome, and the state is open for business.
The business leaders argue that when recruiting top talent, a welcoming stance toward all people matters, not just for marginalized workers. Millennials and Generation Z are demanding more than just welcoming workplaces for themselves. They are demanding inclusive environments, and laws that target the LGBTQ+ community are viewed as driving away potential employees and business conferences from the state.
The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce has also conveyed a statement echoing the concern of business leaders, stating that Nebraska’s reputation as a “warm and welcoming state” is at stake. The statement highlights that socially destructive laws such as LB 575 and LB 574 could impact the state’s economy negatively.
When asked about the letter, the governor’s staff responded that protecting Nebraska’s kids is good for business. The state of Nebraska is open and accepting of all individuals, yet the governor has stated that minors should not be allowed to make major life choices until they reach adulthood.
Omaha Senator Kathleen Kauth, the primary sponsor of LB 574, has agreed to examine possible revisions to the measure, although a date for the third round of discussion has not yet been scheduled. The “Sports and Spaces Act,” or LB 575, has stalled in the Education Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature.
Senator Kauth responded to the business leaders’ letter on Thursday by saying that they are disregarding the fact that conservatives have a different opinion of her ideas. Although she doubted anybody would leave Nebraska because of these concerns, she acknowledged that if they did, Nebraska might gain residents as they fled “very liberal states” that had passed pro-trans laws.
Omaha Senators Machaela Cavanaugh and Megan Hunt have been leading a series of filibusters against the measures throughout the whole legislative session. They argue that such legislation is “hateful” because it interferes with parental and medical autonomy.
Multiple conservative states have enacted legislation restricting access to gender-affirming health care. Many people believe that children shouldn’t have potentially life-changing procedures or take drugs until they’re of legal age.
In conclusion, Nebraska’s business and charity sectors have expressed their concern that laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community are having a negative impact on the state’s ability to attract and retain talent. These laws are viewed as socially destructive and could make it challenging for businesses to keep current employees, attract new ones, and fill the state’s expected 80,000 job openings. The business leaders have demanded an inclusive environment to win investment, business, and talent. Legislative Bill 574 and Legislative Bill 575 have stalled in the Nebraska State Legislature, and revisions to the measure have been suggested. However, there is still significant opposition to the bills, with Senators arguing that they are hateful and interfere with parental and medical autonomy.
THE LETTER SIGNED STATES:
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.