My Turn: Wage and Hour Division nominee will hurt New Hampshire small businesses

For the Monitor
Published: 8/4/2021 7:00:13 AM

As a first-generation American, I was fortunate enough to grow up in the land of plenty. My parents weren’t so lucky. They left Portugal for Rhode Island decades ago, fleeing a dilapidated dictatorship and seeking economic opportunity unknown to our people. That determination and grit rubbed off on me and through years of hard work I’ve managed to secure my own piece of the American dream. I’ve worked my way up the ladder to where I now own 32 franchise small business locations across New Hampshire and I employ over 500 people on our fantastic team.

There’s a saying in Portuguese, É melhor prevenir do que remediar, which roughly translates to, “It is better to prevent than to mend.” I hope these words of wisdom guide Sens. Hassan and Shaheen when they consider the misguided nominee tapped to lead President Biden’s Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, Dr. David Weil.

To most, Dr. Weil is no one they’ve ever heard of. He has an impressive resume that features the likes of Harvard and former stints at the Department of Labor under President Obama. Unfortunately, for the more than 3,000 franchise small business owners in New Hampshire like myself, Dr. Weil’s work hits closer to home. That’s because he made his name and dedicated his career to trying to put us out of business.

Dr. Weil is the author of The Fissured Workplace, a theory so grossly out of touch with reality that many have called it a downright “myth,” (WSJ Opinion, 1/16/19). Dr. Weil’s main argument is that franchises like mine are engaged in outsourcing, providing no recognizable good to workers or society as they increasingly shed liability to their franchise owners like me. This is the “fissuring” of the workplace, which he purports hurts all parties except the large corporate company. In a fissured world, the only solution to fill the gap is to extend liability, boost union participation and bargaining power, and essentially corporatize the entire franchise model.

The problem is that this logic is not only flawed, it fundamentally misses the mark that makes franchising uniquely accessible and inclusive. While my brand provides me with a reputable brand name and product, I’m the one who runs our operations. I control hiring and firing, payroll, benefits packages and everything that goes into our businesses. Out-of-state executives in some far away state don’t make these decisions for me. When we fund a local soccer team, it’s money from our local customers going back into our community. I cannot emphasize this enough when it comes to franchises: the name over the door may be recognizable nationally, but the people inside who keep the lights on are your neighbors.

Dr. Weil also fails to see how franchising empowers people like me. For immigrants, first-generation Americans, women, people of color and other groups that continue to face disadvantages and roadblocks to accessing capital, property and other mechanisms of wealth creation, franchising provides an incredibly inclusive opportunity. This is because franchising offers anyone, regardless of their experience or background, the chance to own and operate their own business without assuming the enormous costs and risks of starting from scratch.

Furthermore, Dr. Weil’s anti-small business policies and politics don’t align with those of our state. In 2017, Gov. Chris Sununu signed SB 89 into law, explicitly putting franchise owners on par with their corporate companies. SB 89 cemented that franchise owners like me are the actual employers of our employees, not the corporate headquarters of national and international chains hundreds and thousands of miles away.

Dr. Weil would prefer that small business owners in our state and I serve as collateral damage and lose the equity we’ve sunk into our businesses if it meant boosting union membership. The irony is that he touts these theories and policies as equalizing solutions that help the little guy against large corporations. In reality, the “fissured workplace” and all its embodiments have the opposite effect for us in the Granite State. You cannot inadvertently crush David and claim to be fighting against Goliath. Dr. Weil should not be in a position to put flawed theory into flagrant practice, and I urge Sens. Hassan and Shaheen to keep that in mind when considering his nomination.

(John Motta is chairman of the Coalition of Franchisee Associations. He lives in Nashua.)

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