Both major-party candidates for governor, Charlie Baker and Martha Coakley, should have been in the hot seat on non-compete clauses this past Monday. After all, they were in Cambridge speaking with an audience of young, tech-oriented, startup-minded, entrepreneurial spirits. But if anyone was looking for answers, a strong stance, or even a reasonably thorough discussion on the matter, they will just have to wait because both Coakley and Baker went with “wait-and-see” positions on the topic.
Non-competes have become a hot button topic in the business community and subsequently spilled into the political ring. While the non-compete has been included in many agreements between employer and new hires, its function has gradually come into question, with a growing sector of the business community considering the non-compete clause as stifling. Employers continue to insist it’s necessary for protecting trade secrets.
Candidate Baker offered an opinion that hints he believes there is room for compromise. It’s a safe position that gives both sides hope. Meanwhile, candidate Coakley took an even weaker slant, saying she is open to looking at change, waiting to hear from all parties. This despite the fact that the opinions of both sides’ is not merely a matter of public record, but quite a volatile one.
That both candidates can take such a position is discouraging. It is well known employers want to leave things as they are while employees are growing increasingly tired of the stifling nature of the non-compete clause, saying that it limits their opportunities to grow and stops them from moving to a competing company or starting a business of their own in the same field. With all the publicity surrounding current legislative attempts to outright ban the practice of non-competes, one has to wonder how two candidates vying for the corner office could take such non-committed approaches.
Of course, playing it safe is the norm in politics, not the exception. Neither candidate wants to openly offend constituents so close to the election. Unfortunately for those of us who want a candidate that has a strong opinion either way, we may have to wait until the candidate is actually in office before hearing one.