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Tuesday, Aug 16, 2022
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Chamber Balks at Participation by Union at Event

Unions and chambers of commerce don’t mix – at least they shouldn’t when it comes to sponsorship of the local United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley & Region’s 6th Annual Mayor’s Luncheon, said officials from the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce. The chamber has decided to disassociate itself from the luncheon, scheduled for Sept. 22, if the organization maintains its decision to allow a Los Angeles labor union to be the title sponsor of the event, said Nancy Hoffman Vanyek, CEO of the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce. The chamber has asked for its name to be removed from all promotional materials for the event, which is being sponsored primarily by the local chapter of the Amalgamated Transit Union, or ATU Local 1277 Members of the chamber’s board of directors have yet to decide whether its group would forego the event altogether, said Heidi Lennartz, the chamber’s board chair and CEO of Mission Community Hospital. Vanyek, who also serves on the board of directors for the United Chambers of Commerce, said the issue is a matter of values. “We feel that by inviting the labor union to be a sponsor of a business organization’s event goes against our fundamental business principles for which we all stand,” she said, adding that both her chamber and the United Chambers of Commerce were involved last year in lobbying against the union-backed Employee Free Choice Act. The act proposed creating a Card Check system that would have made it easier for employees to form unions. “It gives the impression that we’re now favoring labor union positions and it decreases our leverage on issues we’ve advocated,” Vanyek added. Both Vanyek and Lennartz said that while they support open discussions between labor unions and business groups, providing unions with public forums through chamber event sponsorships is inappropriate and sends conflicting messages. The Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce submitted a formal letter of opposition to the United Chambers of Commerce last week on the day its board of directors voted overwhelmingly in favor of the $7,500 sponsorship by the transit union. United Chambers of Commerce officials said one other CEO of a member chamber has also raised concerns to the board. Richard Leyner, the United Chambers of Commerce’s director of fundraising and marketing, said the sponsorships shouldn’t be an issue. “We’re not going to discriminate against anybody that’s a legal entity,” Leyner said. “I think it’s intolerant to not communicate or want to communicate with someone that has another opinion than you. Somebody stepped up to the plate and said, ‘We’ll do it,’ and we accepted that.” Leyner said the union was sought out by someone hired by the organization this year to help secure funding. While the past couple of years have been a difficult time for fundraising, Leyner said better economic times would not alter his perspective. Dick Castner, executive director of the Western Region of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said it is uncommon to see unions sponsor chamber-related functions, but that doesn’t mean the sponsorships necessarily equates to a conflict of interest. “Most chambers welcome sponsors and need them to put on their events to keep the costs down for attendees,” said Castner, who oversees five western states and whose office is located in Woodland Hills. “I guess I would call that innovative, but not necessarily a conflict in any way. Could it be? Maybe, if somehow the sponsorships gave the union leverage over the chambers, but I doubt that’s the case.” Castner said the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce and the United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley & Region are members of the U.S. Chamber, and Castner regularly works with both groups.

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