Reviewing the NLRB’s decisions this summer, I fail to see a single action that will negatively impact my business. I have strained to see how informing workers of their right to form a union or modernizing the outdated union election process will hurt my business. The connection simply isn’t there. These seemingly minor changes certainly do not create uncertainty for me and they will not affect my ability to create jobs. In fact, if the NLRB standardizes the election process, it seems to me that this will reduce uncertainty and turmoil in the workplace — especially for small businesses.
So here’s what a real small businessman says he needs to succeed: talented and committed workers with a voice on the job.
I run a sheet metal company in Sterling, Va., where we fabricate and install sheet metal duct work for ventilation, air conditioning, and heating systems. My workers are an integral part of my business and an important asset to its success. They are my business partners, not a line item on my accounting forms.
My employees are members of the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association Local Union 100 and collective bargaining helps us work together. Despite what you’ve heard, I’m not experiencing any undue burdens because of my union workforce. Quite the opposite—when I hire a union member, I know I’m getting a qualified, well-trained worker who has undergone rigorous and thorough skills training. Their union provides an educational infrastructure that frankly, as a small business owner, I could not offer on my own. Having these skilled workers means my workplace is safer, which lowers costs, makes my business more efficient, and helps raise profits.
According to groups like the U.S.Chamber of Commerce – who, by the way, have never done a thing to help my business grow – the only way I can succeed is to mimic overseas employers with bottom of the barrel labor practices. Only unskilled workers with no voice will allow my business to thrive, they say.
But when I founded my business in 1983, I knew from my time on the other side of the desk that being treated with respect had an impact on the quality of my work. I remember how paychecks get spent on school clothes and sack lunches and trips to the doctor. Now that I am in management, I can see that we aren’t going to climb out of this recession by treating workers worse. Meager wages, long hours, and a lack of benefits aren’t the right thing for my community or my business.
It’s time that America’s real small business owners speak up. Gutted safety standards, huge tax breaks for CEOs, and workers with no rights or benefits won’t help me and they won’t help my business.
As for the witch-hunt of the NLRB, it’s nothing more than theatrics. Working people and middle class families face real problems each day. Rather than acting as Wall Street’s hired bully, Congress needs get back to work creating jobs and serving the people that elected them.
Willie West is the founder and owner of West Sheet Metal Company in Sterling, Va. He recently testified before the House Small Business Committee regarding the impact of NLRB regulations on business owners.