Opinion

Small businesses celebrate Labor Day with big victory

by Troy Nichols

In a few days, many in Washington state will join Americans across the country to take time to celebrate Labor Day, established by Congress 113 years ago.
Each Labor Day, employers and employees take time to be with family and friends and to reflect on a years worth of hard work. Unfortunately, while Americans are enjoying hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill, Congress is considering cooking up ideas that would prove costly to small employers and their employees.
Since the last election, unions have been able to move their pet projects to the forefront of the legislative agenda. Their intent is clear unions want more members whose union dues would be spent to advance their political agenda at the expense of creating jobs and growing the economy.
The first indication that Big Labor had eschewed their memberships interests was their crusade to take away voting rights from workers. Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill called the Employee Free Choice Act that would rewrite 60 years of labor law. Currently, thousands of labor-union elections are held every year in the United States. Sometimes the labor unions win; sometimes employers win. Regardless, the labor union and the employer can make their case to employees, who then cast their votes by secret ballot.
The legislation in question, however, would do away with the need to hold an election. Even if a state has a right-to-work law, employers would be subjected to countless union organizing drives. According to the National Labor Relations Board, 70 percent of these secret-ballot elections involved small employers with 50 employees or less. Imagine a Washington state where instead of focusing on the next project or ways to expand their business, small-business owners worry whether their business will be the next one unions attempt to organize.
Thankfully the U.S. Senate rejected this bill, but not before it received the regrettable support of Washington Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray. Big Labors friends, however, will continue to try to attach the bill to other legislation, so Washingtons business community must remain vigilant for the future.
Unions are also strongly supporting legislation that would tie the hands of small employers and employees when negotiating benefits. The Healthy Families Act has little to do with improving health care for families, but everything to do with interfering with employer-employee relations.
The bill would create an entitlement of seven days of paid sick leave for employees who work for businesses with 15 or more employees. Employees would not be required to provide advanced notice of their leave; in fact, employees would be able to use their leave in hourly increments.
What the legislation fails to acknowledge is that many small businesses already offer paid sick leave. According to National Federation of Independent Business surveys, 75 percent of small businesses voluntarily provide paid sick leave, and a robust 96 percent provide flexible working hours for employees when personal situations arise. The real problem with this bill is, like many others parts of the union agenda, expanding the federal government further into the workplace.
Clearly, mandatory paid sick leave would increase labor costs, as would another Senate bill, the Worker Empowerment Act. This bill would impose a new federal wage insurance tax to boost the pay of unemployed workers who become reemployed in lower-paying jobs. In response, as one small-business owner put, Well, if the government is going to guarantee someone a wage, I want them to guarantee me a profit.
NFIB members that I represent in Washington arent anti-labor. They understand employee productivity is at the heart of free enterprise. Their message to Congress is clear, however avoid union-driven government meddling that hurts free enterprise and our economy.

Troy Nichols is Washington state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

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