New legislation harms workers and businesses rather than helping them
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The American economy is in the longest streak of job growth on record and a recent survey from CNBC shows a majority of Americans approve of the handling of the economy. So then why are some members of Congress pushing for more regulations on the businesses responsible for this record growth? The answer, unfortunately, is politics at its worst. This is a blatant attempt by some politicians to appease big labor as election season heats up.

The recently introduced Workplace Democracy Act (WDA) is a harmful and misleading piece of legislation backed by unions that would restrict workers’ rights and prevent many businesses from providing the goods and services consumers enjoy. The WDA is not worthy of Congress’ time and should be strongly opposed by anyone who wants to continue the economic progress we are making.

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America’s restaurants have played a significant role in that progress, such as providing fundamental skills for career and life. Our industry is the nation’s second-largest private-sector employer – with more than 15 million employees. The economic power of our industry generates 4 percent of the United States’ GDP. This legislation would be especially harmful for the 90 percent of restaurants that are small and locally owned businesses that employ fewer than 50 people. Among its many damaging provisions, the WDA would remove employee voter privacy, curb opportunities for people in the gig economy and hinder employers with joint employer regulations.

It starts by attacking workers’ fundamental right to privacy. Since the earliest days of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employees have had the right to vote privately on whether they would like to be a part of a union, overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for more than 70 years. The WDA would replace it with a card check process that would require employees to cast their votes in front of union organizers and co-workers. This would unfairly subject people to intimidation and harassment, and goes against the foundation of our democratic process. Workers deserve the right to make their own decisions, free of peer pressure or fear of retaliation from supervisors.

This is not the first time that labor unions have attempted to pass bills that hurt the workers they claim to represent. In 2005, unions advocated for the Employee Free Choice Act, which was a misleading measure that would have eliminated private ballots in workplace elections. Thankfully, Congress rejected it – and now, 13 years later, Congress must do the same with the WDA.

The WDA also limits opportunities for the growing number of self-employed individuals working in the gig economy. It would make California’s “ABC” test the new standard for determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. However, the “ABC” test is not as easy as “123” since employers may only be able to meet one or two of the criteria resulting in a damaging effect on the overall business and its employees.

For many workers, it would strip away their freedom to determine what work they do, set their own hours, and establish how they perform their work. For restaurants, this would be especially harmful, since flexibility is a hallmark of our industry. Consumers would also suffer because it would mean less access to on-demand dining services.

Instead of focusing efforts on destructive policy, Congress should support legislation that protects the rights of employees in unions, such as the Employee Rights Act of 2018. This legislation requires unions to be certified through a secret ballot election, and it allows employees in states without right-to-work laws to opt-in to having their dues used for non-bargaining purposes, rather than requiring them to opt-out, among other key provisions.

The WDA is not only harmful to employees, it also would hurt job creators—businesses both small and large. The bill would codify the NLRB’s 2015 decision that muddled the definition of “joint employer” for two separate companies. As a joint employer, companies are jointly responsible for all labor violations and bargaining for jointly employed workers. Until the 2015 rule change, brands and local franchisee owners worked in unison to create millions of jobs and grow our nation’s economy. The new joint employer standard threatens the business models that have led to that harmony and progress, and also hampers businesses from imposing quality and conduct standards on franchises, contractors and vendors – which ultimately hurts employees and customers.

The bill goes on to propose greater government control on private contracts, strip away employees’ Right-to-Work protections, make it more difficult for employers to access legal counsel on complex labor issues, and eliminate protections that prevent unions from harming businesses while exercising their right to protest. All of these things would tear apart America’s economy and would be extremely damaging to the cornerstones of communities – America’s restaurants.

Let us be clear: we need laws that will expand people’s rights and allow for freedom in workplace and career choices. The WDA does the opposite. Congress should reject the legislation and instead work to genuinely expand workers’ rights and opportunities.

Steve Danon is the Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at the National Restaurant Association.