Trade groups believe that the NLRB's proposed joint-employer standard would exacerbate existing labor challenges.
The grocery industry is voicing its opposition to the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) new proposed joint-employer standard. For instance, trade organizations FMI – The Food Industry Association has filed a regulatory comment letter on behalf of its members and joined a coalition of employer groups. The standard is used to determine when two or more businesses share direct and indirect responsibility of a worker.
FMI’s letter opposed the expansion of the essential terms and conditions in the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would consider business-to-business arrangements as joint employer relationships. According to the association, this would have the potential to disrupt operational relationships that have been at the heart of the industry for decades.
“FMI members have unique needs in meeting staffing requirements in stores, distribution facilities and divisions throughout their business operations,” noted Christine Pollack, VP, government relations at Arlington, Va.-based FMI. “In addition to hiring direct employees, these businesses fulfill operational needs through vendors, contracts and temporary staffing relationships. Utilizing the expertise and specialty skills of these separate businesses should not constitute a joint-employer status.”
Added Pollack: “The NPRM’s significant expansion of the essential terms and conditions of a joint-employer relationship to capture health and safety standards and hours of work and scheduling would negatively impact every aspect along the food and consumer goods supply chain.”
The letter further pointed out that the staffing needs of the manufacturing, warehousing and retailing sector must remain flexible to meet these needs of a food industry that is perennially evolving because of such factors as supply chain challenges, consumer trends and demands, and economic conditions.
Similarly, The National Grocers Association (NGA), the national trade association representing the independent supermarket sector, filed its own comments with the NLRB in opposition to the proposed regulation.
“As independent community grocers and wholesalers continue to face labor shortages and a workforce gap, such a regulation from the federal government would not only exacerbate these challenges, but would expose them to increased liability and labor costs that are difficult to absorb in an industry with slim profit margins,” observed John Richard, senior manager, government relations and policy analysis at Washington, D.C.-based NGA.
Included in NGA’s comments were the following policy recommendations:
The NLRB should release clear guidance on terms not defined in the NPRM.
The board should work with NGA to determine “routine components of a company-to-company contracts” in the grocery sector and provide safe harbor to independent grocers that contract within those components.
The NLRB should provide a unique safe harbor for the contracts used to establish a cooperative business model.