Why Washington Needs You Now

Government Relations

By Matt Haller, IFA

It's important to control the franchising narrative for generations to come.

There’s never been a more important year than 2019 to come to Washington for the Franchise Action Network Annual Meeting. That may seem like a dramatic sentence, given all that franchising has been through in the past six years on the regulatory front. However, one need not look any further than the macro political conversation taking place in the national political discourse about the role of capitalism to understand why now is the time to invest in protecting your business and building relationships with sitting members of Congress. After all, these policymakers, particularly the dozens of relatively moderate members of the Democratic majority, will set the agenda for what policies can actually be implemented in Congress should a Democrat replace President Trump in the White House in 2021.

It’s not too far-fetched to imagine a scenario in 2021 whereby Democrats control the White House, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives. That would set up a scenario where issues that can pass the House today, but are DOA in the Senate, are on the table for being signed into law. Whether it’s a $15/hour national minimum wage, eliminating private insurance, the Green New Deal, or countless other progressive priorities, these issues will undoubtedly be a part of the Democratic presidential platform regardless of who the ultimate nominee is in Milwaukee next summer. They would surely be part of a “First 100 Days” strategy should the aforementioned scenario play itself out at the ballot box.

One such component of this agenda would assuredly be the PRO Act, an amalgamation of nearly every single labor regulation IFA opposed during the Obama administration. These include an expansion of the joint employer standard, the elimination of state right-to-work laws and the persuader rule, a codification of the problematic Dynamex test adopted in California for determining independent contractor status, and last but not least, card check, also known as eliminating the right to a private ballot in a union organizing election. The PRO Act already has more than 180 co-sponsors in the House and 40 in the Senate. Which gets us back to why this year is the most important year to come to DC to lobby with IFA and protect your business now.

If House Democrats cannot get enough co-sponsors this Congress to bring the PRO Act to the floor for a vote this year, it almost guarantees the issue would be eliminated or significantly altered in order to bring it to the floor. The best way to educate members of Congress about why they should stay far away from these issues is by putting a local face on the issue. That’s what you’ll do when you come to the FAN Annual Meeting, with opposing the PRO Act being at the top of our list of priorities this year.

One of the most important aspects of public affairs and political campaigns is to define yourself first, or your opponents will define you. This lesson is particularly important, as it relates to the conversation about franchising that is taking place on Capitol Hill. Make no mistake, franchising has significant opponents who have spent heavily to define our business model over the past several years. The leaders of labor unions who have targeted franchising have called it a dead-end business model. Politicians such as Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and Obama-era regulators such as former National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Richard Griffin and Department of Labor Wage and Hour Administrator David Weil, have said franchising is a root cause of the rise of income inequality.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. That’s why staying on offense now is so critical, both to continue telling our positive franchising story, and now, incorporating opposition to the PRO Act into our comprehensive strategy. Thanks to IFA and the Franchise Action Network’s consistent public awareness campaigns over the past several years, the messages opponents of franchising have conveyed in hearings and in the media have not moved the needle on public opinion about our business model. According to research conducted by Morning Consult, 73 percent of voters see franchising as a significant economic force; 78 percent see franchises as helping their local economy and an equal percentage see franchises as supporting jobs. Furthermore, 81 percent of voters have a favorable view of the family-owned franchise businesses in their neighborhood.

The best defense is often having a really good offense. When our members are fired up about an issue, they bring it. That is why, on September 10-11 this year, your franchising peers will be in Washington to join our lobbying efforts to ensure that no matter what the outcome of the 2020 elections may be, the franchise business model stays strong for generations to come. 


Matt Haller is Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Public Affairs for the International Franchise Association.