Celebrate all American workers on Labor Day

Independent contractors, entry-level managers and small business franchisees all help the economy thrive

When commemorating Labor Day 2021, President Joe Biden stopped by a picnic hosted by IBEW Local 313 of New Castle, Delaware. Later, he hosted a reception for labor union leaders in the East Room of the White House. There, Biden talked about the days of the “Molly Maguires,” a violent group of unionists who killed dozens of mine foremen and supervisors in northeastern Pennsylvania during the late 1800s. “They were a little tougher,” he said. “You gave them a hard time, and you ended up on the doorstep, in a bag.”

As we approach this Labor Day, President Biden should stop waxing nostalgic about the good old days of union violence, pivot from his myopic focus on unions, and express his support for all workers in our economy.

To date, the president has tried to pull every lever of power at his disposal to push workers into labor unions, without any regard to whether these workers actually wish to join a union or whether his policies will negatively impact the economy. That is despite the fact that the vast amount of workers have chosen not to join a union and a July 29 report from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that nonunion workers’ nominal pay in June was up 5.8% year-over-year, compared with only 3.8% for unionized workers.

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While unions played an important role in American history and codification of many critical labor standards, the president wants us to forget that like every movement, labor has had its share of villains and its own sordid history. Workers simply might choose not to hand control of their relationship with an employer to a union, whose focus and resources might be directed toward working at odds with — rather than working with — the employer.

Let’s celebrate all workers, not just the tiny few who organize themselves into labor unions. For starters, let’s celebrate the tens of millions of independent contractors who run and operate their own small businesses and thrive under the flexibility and autonomy their arrangements provide them. NRF members maintain a wide range of business relationships with independent contractors, including billing, facility maintenance, data analysis, delivery and marketing services, to name a few.

Unfortunately, as part of its efforts to appease labor union leaders, the administration is currently rewriting the rules to forcibly reclassify these small business owners. In doing so, these workers would become employees of the companies they presently regard as their clients. The administration’s attempt to limit an individual’s ability to work independently is particularly poorly timed given the current nationwide worker shortage. The United States is currently at or near full employment; the number of workers who want to be employees but are involuntarily categorized as independent contractors is virtually zero.

Let’s celebrate entry-level managers who are actively gaining experience and expertise in the hopes of soon moving up the ladder to higher-level managerial positions. Regrettably, the administration is in the process of rewriting overtime regulations, which will needlessly force millions of these workers back on the clock, regardless of their preference. These new regulations will negatively impact retail store managers and assistant managers. They will lose the ability to use their own discretion as to how and when to do their jobs. They will lose the flexibility and dignity that managerial status provides. And, they will lose countless educational and advancement opportunities as they build their careers.

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So great is the administration’s determination to increase union density that it remains committed to stifling the right of employers to communicate with their employees about unionization. To ensure a fair system, it is imperative that employers be able to articulate their views on the impact of unionization on their workplaces.

Part of this process is, on occasion, requiring attendance at mandatory employee meetings on unionization as part of normal work obligations. In the end, when deciding on unionization, employees should have all information at their disposal.

Further, let’s celebrate the millions of small business franchisees who enhance their communities and provide employment to over 8 million workers nationwide. These small business owners are under attack by the Biden administration, which is seeking to force them into a joint employment relationship with their franchisor. The liability and exposure joint employment status imposes on an entity will force franchisors to take more control over their franchises, effectively stripping these franchisees of their autonomy and making them middle managers of a larger corporation.

California policymakers are seeking to go even further and empower a council of unelected political appointees to set labor rules for quick-service restaurants. Essentially, the legislation could eliminate the franchise business model all together.

This Labor Day let’s push back on misguided efforts to tip the balance of power in favor of unions and instead celebrate the individuals who help our economy thrive through perseverance, hard work and ingenuity. Let’s celebrate the independent contractors enjoying the freedom and autonomy they rely on, the middle managers looking to grow and advance in their careers, and the franchisees hoping to achieve the American Dream of being your own boss.

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