Today, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing to examine the impact that National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) general counsel Richard Griffin’s recent actions could have on small businesses all over the country. Last year, Griffin filed an amicus brief in the Browning Ferris Industries case that recommended franchisors be considered joint employers with franchisees. Later, he authorized dozens of complaints against a franchisor, naming it as a joint employer with franchisees. The hearing, titled Who’s the Boss? The “Joint Employer” Standard and Business Ownership, featured testimony from two franchisees who told the committee members of the negative impacts that changes to current joint employer standards would have on their small businesses.
Gerald Moore, the owner of five The Little Gym franchises in Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina, explained that such a radical change to established labor law would fundamentally undermine the franchise relationship, saying that it “would mean that my franchisor would be jointly responsible for all of my employment-related liabilities… This will mean increased control and more day-to-day involvement by The Little Gym International.”
John Sims IV, who owns a Rainbow Station franchise in Richmond, Va., added that the general counsel’s actions were already having a negative impact on his business’ plans. “My wife and I have often talked about opening a second Rainbow Station location,” Sims explained. “However, the uncertainty as to what the future holds for franchisees and other small businesses has forced us to put that plan on hold. It simply does not make sense to try and grow our business at a time when we do not know what the future of our business will be.”
Although some Democratic members of the committee claimed the impact of such a change would be limited, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) agreed that a dramatic change in joint employer standards would have negative consequences that reached far beyond the franchise community. “This case doesn’t just affect franchisees, it will affect every business that uses a subcontractor or contracts out for any service. That includes most of the 5.7 million businesses under NLRB jurisdiction in America – because most businesses contract for some service.”
You find an achieved webcast of the hearing, along with the witnesses’ testimony, here. If you would like more information on the joint employer issue, please visit IFA’s Labor and Workforce Hub. You can also be a part of IFA’s nationwide grassroots efforts to preserve the franchise model by joining the Franchise Action Network.