Brad Sims: More harmful federal overreach coming


Small business is the backbone of the West Virginia economy. Gone are the days of large employers hiring thousands of workers.

Today, smaller more-specialized companies are providing goods and services in the marketplace. This allows our country and our state to be competitive players in the world economy. The fact is that 80 percent of West Virginia businesses are small businesses.

Today, West Virginia is struggling. We have the highest rate of unemployment in the country — and the lowest rate of job creation.

More than ever, we need policymakers to foster a workplace environment that enables job growth and reward our small-business owners, the engine of local economic growth.

Unfortunately, the federal government, through the National Labor Relations Board, recently made a decision that will not only hurt West Virginia small businesses but will likely disrupt business communities in every state throughout the country.

In its controversial Browning-Ferris decision, the NLRB just reversed more than three decades of labor policy defining what it means to be a “joint employer.”

The NLRB’s decision redefines “joint employer” to encompass virtually any business (large or small) that has contractual relationships with other businesses. This means larger companies will be less likely to purchase services from West Virginia small businesses, which would result in greater job losses in the state.

For decades, two separate businesses have been considered “joint employers” only if both exercise direct and immediate control over the terms and conditions of employment of the same workers.

This means that both entities share the ability to hire, fire, supervise and direct the workers. The NLRB’s new rule states that any business that contracts with other businesses for specialized services is now considered a “joint employer.”

The NLRB ruled that the term “joint employer” now should include all businesses that have a mere right to exercise direct, indirect or even ultimate control over employment terms.

This poses immediate threat to West Virginia’s — and all America’s — small businesses.

The sweeping effect of the new rule is that every small business now will be considered a joint employer with whatever vendors it chooses to subcontract with or to — whether for janitorial, staffing, information technology or any other need.

All small-business owners now will be equally liable for the employees of businesses in contractual relationships, despite having no control over the other businesses’ hiring, firing, salaries or benefits.

This arbitrary re-imagining of the 21st-century workplace puts millions of small businesses and employees in jeopardy.

Employees who once worked for bosses with kids who might have played on the same teams down the street as their own kids are now working for employers who could be based hundreds or thousands of miles away. The result is a web of employers, jointly connected, causing serious uncertainty and confusion in the job market.

This issue does not fall along partisan lines. We all agree we do not need Washington dictating to West Virginia small-business owners how to run their operations. Small businesses have been the engine driving growth in this country for a long time, creating two-thirds of all new jobs across the states. With the demise of the coal market in our state, the need for small business jobs is even more pronounced.

But, now the NLRB threatens that growth and the future for millions of workers employed by small companies.

It’s up to Congress to act. Small businesses across West Virginia and the country are supporting a bipartisan bill to repeal the NLRB’s decision and restore the common sense definition of “joint employer.”

The Protecting Local Business Opportunity Act (S. 2015) would undo the damage caused by bureaucrats in Washington meddling with decades of established business practices among small owners.

I urge Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito — leaders who have supported small business time and time again — to cosponsor this federal legislation.

Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, West Virginia small businesses deserve better than having the rug pulled out from under them.

Brad Sims is president of United Talent, LLC.

< PREVIOUS Jon Godfread: Congress must reverse labor board’s anti-business rule
Industry groups push to kill ruling that could make it easier for fast food workers to unionize NEXT >