MODE co-0wner: Labor decision threatens small businesses

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

This is not about politics - it's about how businesses work.

As a franchise small-business owner based in Bismarck, my family and I are primarily focused on my employees' productivity and quality of life and the success of our business. Federal labor policy coming out of Washington isn't typically on my radar screen. Unfortunately, the National Labor Relations Board's ruling in the Browning-Ferris case has such sweeping ramifications for my family's small business that I cannot ignore it. This is not about politics - it's about how businesses work. Simply stated, the NLRB's ruling redefines my workplace by erasing a long history of common sense business practices without so much as a people's vote.

I never thought I'd own a small business. I started my career as a social worker in the North Dakota penitentiary system. About a year ago, I went into business with my sister as a co-owner of a MODE franchise. The business model is simple - we provide designer brands at outlet prices in a boutique environment. We take pride in our products and even greater pride in our employees and the work environment we provide for them. My sister and I employ great women. Some are moms, some are students. All empower other women. We are working together to grow our business and the brand throughout North Dakota.

The NLRB ruling has now jeopardized our goals. The ruling means that any business, regardless of size, that contracts with other businesses for specialized services can now be considered a "joint employer" with each of them. The result is that I am now liable for the employees of businesses I contract with, and equally troubling, that those employees now effectively work for me even though I did not hire them and set their salaries, schedules or benefits.

The ruling has such vast consequences that the NLRB cannot quantify the impact on America's workplace, let alone the local costs this move will bear across North Dakota.

The board's decision amounts to what some are calling a flat-out rejection of our modern, 21st-century workplace - a workplace myself and millions of other small-business owners across America signed up for. The ruling, contrary to what the vast majority of Americans want, meddles in the operations of small businesses all across the country.

Democrat or Republican, it is not Washington's role to make business decisions for me. Policymakers should focus on ways to help create an environment that allows small businesses, which create two-thirds of all net-new jobs, to thrive - spreading opportunities for people across this country and adding to our economy. The NLRB's ruling in Browning-Ferris does the opposite. It threatens small businesses and shows inadequate understanding of the function of the American workplace in a modern economy.

I recently traveled to Washington to personally urge Congress to protect our communities and our families by supporting the bipartisan Protecting Local Business Opportunity Act. The legislation would repeal the NLRB's disastrous Browning-Ferris decision. Members of both parties should come together and give small businesses the stable environment we need to grow, thrive and continue creating jobs in our local communities.

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