New Study: Franchise Businesses Suffer Most Under $15 Minimum Wage Increases

Increasing the minimum wage has long been a popular tactic for liberals in the political sphere seeking “fairness” for workers.  To the casual observer, the idea that someone should earn a so-called “fair wage” appeals to their moral conscience without immediately conjuring up the economic impact of such actions on a large scale.

While there has recently been a national debate about raising the current federal minimum wage from $7.25, Congress has rebuffed those efforts, based largely on evidence from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that 500,000 workers would lose their jobs, wiping out any improvement in wage levels for those entry-level workers who remain in the workforce. In response, an increasing number of states and cities are being pressured by liberal activists to raise their own minimum wage.

Most localities have passed new wages based on economic and cost of living conditions. However, in some places, a unique and potentially damaging characteristic of some wage proposals has a trend to include a provision requiring families in local communities who own franchises to pay wages higher and faster than those paid by non-franchise businesses.

Take the city of Seattle or the state of New York for instance. Each passed an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour, both discriminatory in their own way.  In Seattle, the legislation considers independently operated franchisees as ‘large employers’ because they contract with a brand, and subsequently forces them to implement the increase faster than local, non-franchise businesses. Meanwhile, in New York, Gov. Cuomo unilaterally targeted quick service restaurants through a “Fast Food Wage Board” which consisted of no small business owner representation. This wage increase required those families who operate a local restaurant with 30 or more locations nationally to pay a $15 minimum wage, and leaving other businesses at the more modest $9 state-wide minimum wage.

Perhaps the most perplexing notion in both cases is that wages were raised under the auspices of fairness.  What could possibly be fair about requiring one family who owns a small business to implement a wage at a faster pace than another, or leaving those employees who DON’T work for these businesses at a lower rate.

To address the impact of this new trend in policymaking, new research from the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) overwhelming disproves the notion that franchise businesses could absorb an increase in the minimum wage easier than non-franchise businesses.  According to the study, franchise businesses would be impacted more, with over two-thirds of franchise small business owners saying that they would be forced to reduce staff or reduce hours to compensate, compared to roughly half of non-franchise businesses.  Additionally, 54 percent of franchisees said they would likely use more automation, compared to just 37 percent of non-franchise businesses.

“This study confirms that local franchise businesses, who form the fabric of their communities, should not be unfairly targeted for higher labor costs than non-franchise businesses,” said IFA Director of State Government Relations and Public Policy Jeff Hanscom. “Arbitrarily forcing higher labor costs on franchise small businesses will reduce employment for those who need it most, while stripping neighbors of their ability to own a small business.”

As policymakers around the country continue to face pressure from local activists seeking to raise the minimum wage to exorbitant levels, it is clear they should avoid choosing winners and losers.

At Kemp Forum, Opportunity Agenda Thrives

All too often, when Americans look to politicians in Washington, D.C. for solutions to America’s numerous domestic issues, a convoluted package of policy proposals and regulations overwhelm the menu. Rather than addressing the root causes of economic distress or poverty, politicians provide patch-work solutions that often cost tax payers, while failing those in need.

This past weekend, however, some of the most powerful thought leaders and politicians in America gathered at the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity in South Carolina to buck the trend, and prescribe an avenue for alleviating poverty that focuses on people, rather than stale policy. Organized by the Jack Kemp Foundation, the namesake organization for the late Congressman and “bleeding heart” conservative Jack Kemp, the Expanding Opportunity event sought to examine why the so-called “war on poverty” has failed so many of our fellow citizens, and what we as a nation can do to enable prosperity.

Moderated by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the event included panels with six Republican presidential hopefuls and American Enterprise Institute President Author Brooks, with a focus on reforming areas from education to spurring job growth. The participants rightly noted that America was founded on the principle that everyone would have the same opportunity to succeed in life, not the same guaranteed outcome. As part of this narrative, the moderators drove the dialogue that our country is at its best when innovators and entrepreneurs thrive, not when the government continues to implement workplace regulations and social assistance programs that entrench the cycle of poverty and big government.

While everyone on stage agreed that small businesses are driving the economy, it was obvious that a litany of failed policies continue to plague the opportunity agenda.  Sen. Scott noted that in a time when young people need to develop professional skills and learn the responsibility that comes with work ethic, inane policies such as $15 minimum wage proposals will force youth unemployment rates to skyrocket, leaving yet another generation at a gaping disadvantage to compete in the labor force. As business owners reconcile with increasing costs, some will be forced to shutter their dream. Several candidates made the plea that power return to the states, arguing that bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., who are out of touch with small communities, are generating burdensome rules that make entrepreneurship nearly impossible.

Presidential politics always brings with it a plethora of idealistic proposals and rhetorically pleasing soundbites. But, at the Kemp Forum on Expanding Opportunity, audience members were treated to solutions that could start a wave of growth for the next generation. Poverty is not eradicated by simply instituting equality with social programs and regulations.  In order to solve poverty, it must be tackled at its root cause: replenishing a lack of opportunity that will enable hard-working Americans the chance to make their own American Dream.  Franchising is a clear path to giving Americans that chance. The IFA looks forward to engaging the candidates and working with campaigns to ensure that America continues to be a land of opportunity. Guided by the new messaging and leadership of Speaker Ryan, our Country and its entrepreneurs can grasp greatness and ensure that everyone has the freedom to pursue their goals, irrespective of politics.

SBA Administrator Testifies Before Congress, Tells of Progress in Assisting Small Business Owners

On Thursday, Jan. 7, the House Committee on Small Business held a hearing on the status of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and heard testimony from SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet as the lone witness.  Although the hearing was convened to address a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that criticized the SBA for its failure to implement management recommendations dating back several decades, the Administrator took the opportunity to highlight the areas where SBA has succeeded in serving America’s small business and helping them continue to grow the economy.

In her testimony, Administrator Contreras-Sweet emphasized that, despite the criticism from the GAO and the Committee, FY 2015 was one of the most successful years in the history of the agency.  SBA backed 22 percent more loans to American small businesses, with a 23 percent increase in the dollar value of those loans compared to FY 2014.  Although lending to small businesses has increased in the years since the recession, she said, it has only returned to 84 percent of its pre-recession level, making the SBA’s role in helping small businesses secure vital financing even more important.  In addition, Contreras-Sweet shared that loan approvals to women in the flagship 7(a) loan program increased 29 percent over 2014, while loan approvals to minorities increased 27 percent and those to veterans increased 47 percent.  All of this progress, the Administrator noted, occurred while the 7(a) program has operated at zero-subsidy, with no direct cost to taxpayers.

The well-established 7(a) program is paramount in ensuring that qualified small businesses, especially franchise businesses, are able to survive and increase their production in a fragile economy.  In 2014 alone, SBA lending programs were used in the financing of nearly 30,000 new franchised units and guaranteed an estimated $6 billion in loans to new and prospective franchisees.  That number is likely to increase since SBA lending for the 7(a) program increased by 23 percent in 2015.  In 2015, nearly a quarter of all new single-unit franchises were financed with the help of SBA loan guarantees, with 17 percent of medium-sized multi-unit franchisees and 19 percent of large multi-unit franchisees utilizing SBA-guaranteed loans to expand their operations.  According to IFA estimates, for every $1 million in lending to a franchise, 40 new direct and indirect jobs are created.  These figures show that SBA loan programs are a vital lifeline to franchises and other small businesses as the small business lending market continues its recovery.

Although the Administrator focused on many of the agency’s high points, the Committee members sought clarification on the Administrator’s plans to address management deficiencies in cybersecurity, staff retention, and disaster relief programs.  Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) pressed the Administrator for a commitment to addressing the GAO report’s recommendations, explaining that 62 of the GAO’s 69 recommendations have not been implemented.

IFA submitted a statement for the hearing record praising the SBA for its essential loan programs, while stressing the need for continued recognition of the needs of small business owners in the U.S. Congress.  The Committee will continue with its series of hearings on the oversight of the SBA this week.  SBA Associate Administrator of Capital Access Ann Marie Mehlum and Linda Rusche, Director of the Office of Credit Risk Management will testify on the status and management of the SBA’s capital access programs tomorrow at 10:00am ET.  For more information on last week’s hearing, or for more information on this week’s activity, click here.

SEIU Endorses Clinton Candidacy – What About America’s Small Businesses?

On Tuesday, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the largest private sector unions, endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential race. This decision by the SEIU executive board came amidst objections from local SEIU chapters, some of whom say that the endorsement came too early in the election cycle. The controversy is heighted by Clinton’s failure to support SEIU’s keynote initiative, the ‘Fight for $15,’ aimed at raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Instead, Clinton has spoken out numerous times in support of a $12 per hour minimum wage.  The endorsement reflects an alarming trend that a Clinton Administration would feature more pro-union policies, following the lead of the Obama Administration.

However, while the SEIU’s approach to solving income inequality is centered on disruptive protests and PR stunts against businesses, IFA’s President & CEO Robert Cresanti argued against harming America’s small business owners: “There is no question we should be looking at solutions to address the growing economic divide in America. However, staging street theatre and shutting down restaurants owned by local families who have invested their life savings and created jobs in communities cannot be the answer.”

The franchise industry is responsible for creating nearly 9 million direct jobs for Americans, outpacing job growth relative to the rest of the economy year after year.  If drastic minimum wage increases take effect, many of these workers will be priced out of the labor market, thereby increasing unemployment and failing to provide millions of workers with the skills needed to excel in a competitive environment.  Regulatory burdens such as the National Labor Relations Board and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration attempts to redefine the “joint employer” standard – which the SEIU has advocated for – have put the country’s more than 780,000 franchise establishments at risk. Despite franchising outpacing the gross domestic product of the rest of the economy, America’s small business owners face a perilous environment if these anti-growth policies persist.

In the future, the inequality debate should focus on creating opportunities to enter the middle class, rather than disruptive political theatre that targets America’s entrepreneurs.

Small business owners to Congress: NLRB’s new test is targeting franchises

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing to address the NLRB’s revised “joint employer” standard as detailed in its August 27 decision in Browning-Ferris Industries.  The Board indicated that “indirect, potential, or ultimate” control over another employer’s workers could be enough to trigger a finding of joint employment, a change from the previous standard requiring direct and immediate control over terms and conditions of employment.  The committee is also considering a legislative solution – Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced legislation last month, the Protecting Local Business Opportunity Act, to restore the decades-old definition of joint employer.

Among the panel of witnesses was Ciara Stockeland, Owner and Founder of MODE, a fashion retail franchise based in Fargo, ND.  MODE is a small franchisor with 12 locations, and plans to expand to 75 by 2024.  “The uncertainty introduced by the NLRB’s BFI decision jeopardizes the expansion of my business,” Ms. Stockeland testified.  “As a small business owner who meets countless public and private demands and competes against massive corporations each day, I find it terribly frustrating to have regulators harming my business and the careers of so many others in our system.”

Despite the NLRB’s ongoing litigation against franchise companies alleging joint employer liability, some Senators insisted that a new joint employment standard will not present a problem for franchise businesses, pointing to the NLRB General Counsel’s advice memorandum in the Freshii case declaring that a single franchisor was not a joint employer with its franchisees.  In response, Ms. Stockeland testified that the Freshii memo “is simply a distraction,” noting that the memo does not hold the force of law and has not been fully litigated like the Browning-Ferris Industries case was.  She also pushed back on the Senators’ arguments that Browning-Ferris does not impact franchise companies since it was a ruling on contracting relationships, saying that “every franchisor-franchisee relationship is based on a contractual franchise agreement.  Franchising is contracting.”

Ms. Stockeland also attended yesterday’s White House Summit on Worker Voice, an event designed to bring together leaders from the labor, employer, and advocate communities to explore ways to collaborate to improve jobs and the economy.  However, the event has been criticized as being biased towards labor unions, with very few representatives from the employer community invited to participate.  “I think from what I have heard, I am in the minority there,” she told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an interview on Tuesday.  “But I am excited to tell my story.”

Chairman Alexander’s bill, S. 2015, continues to gain momentum in the Senate and currently has 60 co-sponsors.  Identical legislation in the House of Representatives, H.R. 3459, is sponsored by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and has 44 co-sponsors.

To watch video of Tuesday’s hearing, click here.  To send a letter to your legislators urging them to support the Protecting Local Business Opportunity Act, click here.