Kapenga Op-Ed: State working to protect small businesses


By Sen. Chris Kapenga |  GUEST OPINION |  Waukesha Freeman

Wisconsin is fortunate to have a small-business model that is responsible for over 177,000 local jobs and $13.5 billion contributed to our local economy. In every community throughout Wisconsin, we encounter these small businesses, we rely on them for essential goods and services, we trust our friends and neighbors who work behind their counters, and we appreciate the support they lend to our communities. Franchise businesses are an indispensable piece of the fabric of our communities, and sadly, recent press reports have provided a very misleading picture of my work to help preserve them.

The franchise business model is under attack by Washington’s National Labor Relations Board, which issued a decision last August that could have a far-reaching impact on Wisconsin franchisors, franchisees, and the over 177,000 Wisconsin residents who rely on franchisees for work.

With their ruling in Browning-Ferris Industries, the NLRB signaled willingness to expand the so-called “joint employment” doctrine, calling into question the long-standing definition of a franchisor- franchisee relationship and opening the door to endless litigation and lawsuits for these small businesses. Our opportunities for business development and job growth depend on a stable and predictable regulatory environment.

Upending the current, well-established, joint employer standard would cause uncertainty and unnecessary disruption for many small-business owners, force some small businesses to close or enter into bankruptcy, and deter aspiring entrepreneurs from opening businesses and creating local jobs.

Here in Wisconsin, we must protect our local businesses from the farflung bureaucratic overreach of Washington, whose underlying goal is to incentivize the growth of labor union membership and line their pockets. Throughout the past few months, I have heard from numerous small businesses from throughout thestate, and they are understandably concerned about this unfair attack on their life’s work. Together, with Governor Walker and my colleagues in the Legislature, we worked hard throughout this session to provide them some meaningful relief.

The Franchise Protection Act (Act 203) is a common-sense solution that guarantees franchisors are not unfairly liable for the actions of franchisees under Wisconsin law, will prevent frivolous lawsuits, and will encourage franchisees to act responsibly.

Not only does it resemble laws enacted in seven other states this year, but importantly, it voices our support for a bipartisan bill that is currently under consideration in the halls of Congress which could put an end to this uncertainty once and for all, and let our small businesses get back to doing what they do best.

(State Sen. Chris Kapenga, RDelafield, represents the 33rd Senate District, covering Delafield, Hartland, Pewaukee and Waukesha. He can be reached at 608-266-9174 or Sen.Kapenga@

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