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Susan Wilson Solovic Headshot

Unions and Small Business Are Like Oil and Water

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Anyone who understands the reality of what it takes to run a successful small business knows that unions and small business are like oil and water. But the politicians in Washington DC don't get it. Why? Because they've never had to make payroll. Allow me to share a brief story and I'll explain.

My mother's family owned a small furniture manufacturing company in a rural southern-Missouri town. When union organizers appeared on the scene, the employees were told if they chose to vote for the union, the business would close down, and they'd all be out of jobs. Unfortunately, no one believed the owners would really lock the doors so they voted in favor of the Union. The next day when the employees arrived to work, the doors were locked ... never to re-open again.

When I was a child, my mother took me to visit that old plant. As I stood on my tiptoes peering in the windows of the dilapidated building, I saw furniture pieces in various states of completion, sitting just where the workers had left them - eerily waiting for their return.

I was far too young to understand the reasons why my family decided to lock the doors of their business instead of working with the union. But now as a small business owner, I bristle at the thought of what unionization would do to my small firm. In fact, I would be tempted to do the same thing my family did in the 1940s: Lock the doors and move on.

You would think in this day and age, that unionization would be a remote concern for a small business owner, but thanks to the Obama Administration, it is real and imminent. Leaders of unions spent $450 million electing President Obama and Congressional Democrats so now that the health care legislation is near completion, union leaders expect to see action on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), commonly known as the card-check law, early this year. Briefly, the legislation makes it easier for unions to organize, and experts predict that it will pass this year.

A small business faced with unionization would be seriously impacted by higher wages, higher business operation/legal costs, and the loss of flexibility over employee selection based on business needs. All of this at a time when small businesses are struggling to keep their doors open and their staff employed.

If the government truly believes that small business is the engine that will drive this country out of a recession, then why in the world would they consider placing yet another cumbersome, costly, deterrent in its way?

My recommendation is to ask the President and members of Congress to walk a mile in our shoes - the shoes of small business owners who are just trying to survive. Give these politicos the opportunity to experience what it feels like to risk your life-savings on a business venture; to do without so your employees will be paid; to work 24/7 with no guarantee there be anything to show for your efforts; to be unable to access the capital you need to grow; and to pioneer innovations that give the U.S. a global competitive advantage.

Small business is the American dream. But if the government continues to ignore the realities small business owners face, it will successfully extinguish the dream.

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