Ordinary MRA members can prove extraordinary when they exercise their power in the government affairs arena. They can be our power on the ground all over the country, to educate and influence policymakers, and advocate for the survey, opinion and marketing research profession.
Here are a few snapshots of MRA’s grassroots in action.
The “Employee Fair Classification Act” (H.B. 1440) would have created the presumption that anyone receiving payment for services was an employee. The burden to refute that presumption would have rested with the “employer.” After reading about the legislation on the MRA website, Vera sprang into action. During a February 18 hearing in the House Finance Committee, Vera testified on behalf of the MRA to the negative impact threatened by H.B. 1440 to any research company offering incentives to respondents in Washington, who without the amendment would have had to treat such respondents as employees. “The overhead that would be required ... would mean that we couldn’t have focus groups in this state,” she said in testimony to the Finance Committee.
Thanks to Vera, before passing the bill on February 28, the Finance Committee amended it to remove references to “remuneration,” and to exempt from the definition of an “employee” any “individual employed on a casual and sporadic basis.” This now means that even if a research respondent’s relationship with a research company would have difficulty passing the test to be considered an “independent contractor” – an increasingly common problem – H.B. 1440 would protect research companies from having to treat respondents as employees because even active and relatively frequent panelists would still likely be considered “employed on a casual and sporadic basis.”
In February and March of this year, a number of MRA members (and non-members) answered the call in Utah to tackle H.B. 44 – legislation to require almost any research study or survey regarding a declared political candidate or ballot proposition to disclose to the respondent who sponsored the study.
Instead of going after so-called “push polls,” legislators in Utah went after all legitimate research.
Aaron Hill (Sawtooth Software), Shane Clark (DataWise) and Vaughn Mordecai (Discovery Research Group) contacted their state legislators on behalf of MRA. Ed Ledek (Key Research Solutions) didn’t just email his Senator, he also visited the capitol building to meet with him in person about H.B. 44. And Vic Walsh (Thoroughbred Research Group) engaged in lengthy discussions with his Senator (who also happened to be the chair of the relevant committee) and several others to try to change their minds on the bill.
While our advocacy campaign was ultimately unsuccessful and H.B. 44 was signed into law, the activism and relationships sparked early this year may prove crucial as we seek to repeal it in the future.
Ginger Blazier (Directions In Research) visited with staff for her Congresswoman, Susan Davis (D-CA-53), on June 14, 2013. In Washington, DC for business, Ginger generously volunteered to take the meeting to advocate for the Research Fairness Act, which would clarify in federal labor law that research respondents receiving any amount of incentive are not employees of research companies. The continuing risk of regulators misclassifying respondents as employees, instead of independent contractors, motivated us to help introduce the Research Fairness Act in 2012. A determination by the U.S. Department of Labor that respondents are employees could require research companies offering incentives of any value to pay respondents overtime wages as well as the federal minimum wage, subject them to restrictions on youth participation, and add extensive paperwork burdens.
After her meeting, Ginger then chipped in to explain to staff for Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA-03) the value of the Census and American Community Survey (ACS) data in ensuring statistically valid research samples.
“I am passionate about the market research industry, due to the benefits it offers to every facet of life,” commented Ginger. “It was quite an honor to join Howard Fienberg on these two quests, which are so impactful for the research industry.”
Speaking of the Research Fairness Act, it would not have been introduced last year if not for the efforts of Colleen Moore-Mezler (Moore Research Services). Colleen met with Congressman Mike Kelly (R-PA-03) in Erie, PA to ask him to introduce it and then kept in touch with him to ensure that he followed through.
In May 2012, Brian LoCicero (Kantar Operations), Kathie Cowles and Leslie Gunner Losh (Mindseye Research Group) arranged a meeting with Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL-06) to make the case for the Research Fairness Act and other legislation. Rep. Roskam also received an important introduction to research companies and how the research process operates.
Will you help?
Relationships with state and federal policymakers are critical building blocks in our government affairs efforts. You can educate them about the research profession, the challenges you face, and the issues critical to your organization’s success – and lay the groundwork for important victories to come. Contact MRA at 202.800.2545 if you’re interested in taking the next step.