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Joint employer tops list at Franchise Action Network event


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IFA Chair Shelly Sun with Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush, who wished to establish a National Franchising Day on Sept. 13.

Matthew Patinkin said there’s “no way” he would have become a franchisee if the joint employer rule had been an issue 25 years ago. Patinkin, a multi-unit franchisee with dozens of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels stores in several states, was talking to Julius Niyonsaba, a legislative aide to Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin, during a meeting as part of the International Franchise Association’s Franchise Action Network event in Washington, D.C., in September.

Right now, Patinkin told Durbin’s aide, as the owner of a business, “I hire people, I determine their schedule, I determine their pay, I terminate people.” But if the new joint employer standard remains, “essentially the franchisor has the liability over every aspect of that … it takes away my control over those things.”

“This top-down approach is not why I got into this business,” added Richard Ueberfluss, an Assisting Hands Home Care franchisee with locations in Naperville and Hinsdale, Illinois. “This is my business. Joint employer could be catastrophic for my business in terms of cost. If the franchisor starts pulling back from providing HR support, training manuals … I have to incur those costs because my franchisor is afraid to provide that support.”

The joint employer standard referenced by Patinkin and Ueberfluss is the foremost issue facing the franchise industry, the IFA says, as it pushes for support of the Save Local Businesses Act, which counters the National Labor Relations Board’s August 2015 ruling in the Browning-Ferris Industries case that adopted a broad joint employer standard based on “indirect” or “potential control” of employees, meaning franchisors can be held responsible for a franchisee’s employees.

Introduced in July by a U.S. House committee, the Save Local Businesses Act aims to define what it means to be a joint employer, stating the employer must “directly, actually and immediately” exercise significant control over the primary elements of employment to be so considered and thus liable for violations of workers’ rights. While a similar bill hasn’t been introduced in the Senate, Patinkin said meeting with senators is equally important as the franchise sector seeks a permanent legislative fix to the joint employer issue.

In the House, 68 representatives and counting—including three Democrats—have signed on as co-sponsors of the act.  

Puzder talks politics

Seven months removed from withdrawing his nomination as labor secretary, former CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder said what happened to him was “really a typical story” of the opposition party still wanting to leverage its political power and “knock an incoming president off his game.”

Puzder, who was President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of labor, pulled out of the process in February and reflected on the experience September 12 in a speech during an IFA dinner in D.C.

That experience was one of politicians “perverting the truth and savaging the reputation of an innocent person,” Puzder said.

Puzder’s business record was attacked from the outset by Democrats, unions and other groups on the left, who cited his criticism of minimum wage increases and other worker protections. Opponents, including some conservatives, also made issue of his contentious divorce nearly 30 years ago.

Ultimately, said Puzder, “my nomination fight was about defeating a person who believes the free market system is good for businesses,” he said.

“I can promise you this: They’re not going to silence me.”

He also has a book set for release in April 2018 titled “The Rebirth of Capitalism.” “That’s the publisher’s title,” he noted. “My title would be ‘The War On Profit.’”

Offering his take on the political landscape and Trump’s job performance thus far, Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said it appears the president is “trying to pivot, or at least recalibrate,” and make it clear to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that they don’t set the agenda.

“I think Trump came into the White House very unsure,” said Todd. “He let others talk him into leading with healthcare. … Imagine if he led with infrastructure. Imagine what the political situation would look like in Washington right now.

“The trust level is pretty bad right now between the president and many leaders of his party,” Todd continued, something that could turn even more problematic as Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election, gets increasingly aggressive with his probe.

Involvement in the political process itself is something more local business owners should pursue, Todd said, and put their influence as community leaders to work.

“You’re touching more of the community than any elected official thinks they touch,” Todd said of franchise owners.

“It also means you have a unique view and you have an opportunity to sort of set some better expectations of how our government should work. As people who interact with so many members of your community that are also voters, you have the ability to force conversations that need to be forced.”

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