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Opinion: Obama is letting the unions take over and hurt small businesses

As someone who has operated for many years both in the business community and as its representative in government, I know what considerations aspiring entrepreneurs and established employers factor in when determining whether to risk capital and start or grow an existing enterprise.  They look for demand in the marketplace for the product or service they are offering, they seek out a skilled and talented labor force, they consider whether there is sufficient investment capital to sustain their effort, and lastly, they study the regulatory and tax policies that will affect them at a federal, state and local level.

Even though – as a nation – we are working to improve our economy, educate students and workers in the skills necessary to excel in high-demand industries, and encourage the safe yet appropriate flow of capital, in the form of loans for example, we have not been able to adequately address the last portion of the equation.

Since winning the election in 2008 and taking the oath of office, President Obama has preoccupied himself with rewarding his friends in Big Labor as opposed to concerning himself with sending a message to job creators that they have an ally in Washington, D.C.  The best example of this is a little-known agency named the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  This federal and supposedly independent group is tasked with refereeing disputes between labor and employers in the private sector.  Yet, since early in Obama’s administration, the NLRB has dedicated itself to writing rules and issuing decisions that benefit union bosses, while hurting America’s small business owners.

As former head of the Small Business Administration, I have met with hundreds of employers who time and again reiterate the need for a partner in the nation’s capital who is committed to making it easier for them to assume risk and hire, expand their offering and/or purchase new equipment.  Unfortunately, today, many don’t see an ally in the Oval Office, rather an antagonist more concerned with empowering union bosses than recognizing the legitimate needs of job creators.

Examples of the ill-advised and damaging actions undertaken by the NLRB include a decision to authorize the formation of multiple, mini collective bargaining units known as “micro-unions” under one employer’s roof, which would dramatically increase labor relations costs and promote discord rather than harmony among employees.  Next, the Board sought to condense the time period workers have to vote in a union election to less than two to three weeks, leaving them open to pressure-filled lobbying by union organizers without the benefit of the voice of their employer.  This same board also sought to punish the Boeing Company for opening a production facility in South Carolina that created thousands of jobs in the state.

The small business sector, which currently employs nearly 60 million Americans, roughly half of private sector employees, will lead our nation out of this prolonged period of economic idleness toward sustained and meaningful expansion and growth.  But this requires certainty that there is a willing and open partner in government looking to reward hard work and success.  Thus far, the Obama Administration has not served as a catalyst in this area despite its rhetoric; instead, government agencies have heightened anxiety and concern among employers, leading to depressed economic activity and hiring.

If the president is as intent on turning around the economy, as his oratory suggests, he will work to rein in an out-of-control regulatory regime, starting with his National Labor Relations Board.  The choice is his; otherwise, the business community will sit on the sidelines and wait for a chief executive committed to working with them as opposed to discouraging their engagement in any economic recovery.


Hector V. Barreto is a nationally recognized businessman and community leader. He served five years as the Administrator of the U. S. Small Business Administration after being appointed by President George W. Bush and unanimously approved by the United States Senate on July 25, 2001. Upon his return to the private sector in 2006, he has assumed leadership in a wide range of business, civic and charitable activities. Mr. Barreto serves as the Chairman of The Latino Coalition, a national organization that represents Latino interests with senior executives of many Fortune 500 companies and government agencies.

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