In almost every community across the country, we rely on our friends and neighbors who operate small businesses to serve as a backbone for local employment and a familiar face providing the services we require. There is something reassuring about a locally owned restaurant or business, because we know the owners are as invested in our community as they are in their own success. Sadly, a recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is threatening local ownership by unwinding the very existence of the franchise model. Fortunately, there is a bipartisan solution to the new “joint employer” standard that can protect small businesses before it’s too late.

For more than three decades, the joint employer standard was a cornerstone of labor law, protecting small businesses from liability arising from actions over which they have no actual or direct control. In one fell swoop, the NLRB ignored decades of legal precedent, abandoned the protections offered by joint employer standards, and putting small business owners on the line over actions of employees of subcontractors, suppliers, and outside vendors. The impact of this decision could reach employers large and small in nearly every business in America but make no mistake, the worst victims will be locally owned small businesses.

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As this ill-conceived ruling progresses, small businesses will struggle to mitigate their new considerable liability. In the process, large franchisors will be forced to either abandon their franchisees entirely or consolidate the business to remove their own liability.  All of this will effectively push the local small business owner out of the market and close the door to local ownership once and for all.

Republicans and Democrats can come together to provide meaningful relief for local business owners. Today we released a letter with over 100 of our colleagues in the U.S. House from both parties urging Congress to address the joint employer issue this year.  We have heard from small businesses across the country who have relayed their profound concerns about the potential impact and we believe stopping the implementation of this ruling is imperative to maintaining local ownership of businesses throughout our communities. 

Ironically, the most vocal proponents of the new joint employer ruling often decry the “corporate takeover of Main Street” in other venues. If they examine this issue more closely, they’ll see nothing they could do would more effectively ensure that outcome.  If we work together to solve the joint employer problem, we will accomplish our shared goals of expanding opportunities for local ownership, ensuring local accountability for customers, and creating better job opportunities for communities across the country.


In the remaining days of the 114th Congress, we call on our colleagues from both parties to support small businesses for the good of our economy and our nation. This is an issue we all can and must support.


Rodney Davis (R) is the U.S Representative for Illinois's 13th congressional district. Collin Peterson (D) is the U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 7th congressional district