Small-business owners are mad as hell, and they're not going to take it anymore.
At least, that was the tone when a number of entrepreneurs descended on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to voice their outrage about a recent National Labor Relations Board ruling that changes the definition of what it means to be a joint employer. They took part in a press event put on by Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, and Representative John Kline, Republican of Minnesota, who have both introduced legislation to overturn the NLRB ruling. The bills are called the Protect Local Business Opportunity Act. The press event capped a Tuesday hearing before the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions to consider Representative Kline's bill.
Although the ruling affects businesses that use contract workers, potentially making them a party to unionizing efforts workers undertake, it also has a specific impact on franchise owners. The ruling potentially gives corporate parents more responsibility for the affairs of their franchisees, including their organizing efforts.
"I don't want to worry about this stuff, and I don't want to practice law again," said Mara Fortin, owner of a Nothing Bundt Cakes franchise, and a former attorney based in San Diego. "I want to bake cakes; that is what I bought into."
Fortin was joined by other franchise owners, including Aslam Khan, the owner of 200 Church's Chicken stores, and Lani Dolifka, the co-chief executive and co-founder of Watermill Express. The water purification franchise operates 1,300 locations and is based in Brighton, Colorado.
"Our franchisees provide jobs and help their communities, and the last thing they want is for us to tinker in their businesses," Dolifka said. "They know how to run their businesses, and they know their markets, and they know how to find employees."
Chief among the complaints of the small-business owners today was that the revised labor standard lacks clarity, particularly when it comes to their dealings with contract and temporary employees.
The NLRB ruling, involving the Teamsters Union and waste recycler Browning-Ferris Industries, has become a highly politicized flashpoint between those who would like to expand the employment rights of the three million contract workers upon which the economy increasingly depends, and business owners who object to the increasing regulation of their affairs. The NLRB board consists of five members who are political appointees. Conservative critics say the decision, which split between three Democrats and two Republicans, was imbalanced and overturned decades of legal precedent about joint ownership.
"This decision makes the big boys bigger and the middle class smaller, and we are determined to restore the law to the way it was," said Senator Alexander, who added that the legislation has some bipartisan support and could advance to a vote in the coming months.