When the Federal Trade Commission announced its groundbreaking lawsuit against Amazon in September, stories of small business owners and their struggles with Amazon were suddenly all over the news. Nicholas Parks, who has been selling his SnobFoods hot sauces and spicy products on Amazon for 20 years, told NPR that the online giant repeatedly raises seller fees and favors its own products on its platform, making it difficult for his company to stay in business. “Once Amazon starts selling it, I’m just closed out of the market.”
Small business voices weren’t just rallying in support of the Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit; their stories, testimony, and activism helped lay the groundwork for it. And taking on Amazon is just the beginning. Corporate concentration is spreading across the economy and threatening independent businesses. But these booksellers, pharmacists, grocers, office suppliers, and many more are fighting back.
Small Business Rising (SBR) — a coalition of independent business groups that is broadcasting small business voices that support the Amazon lawsuit — is engaging in multiple antimonopoly fights. In reaction to unprecedented levels of corporate concentration in our economy, SBR is campaigning against credit card swipe fees (essentially a monopoly tax) and advocated for adequate funding for the federal agencies that regulate competition. It supported the nominations of strong leadership for agency positions and advocated for tougher guidelines for corporate mergers and acquisitions. SBR has become a sought-after voice to represent the small business community to Congress and federal enforcement agencies.
Composed of more than 40 business groups, Small Business Rising launched in 2021 both in response to the increasing threat of monopoly power in our economy and the unique role that small business voices play in our politics. Small businesses transcend political divides, are anchored in the communities that they serve, and are crucial building blocks of economic growth and the middle class, making them key agents of political change.
SBR began by building on an existing network of independent business associations and local economy nonprofits across the United States. Coordinated by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, SBR includes national industry associations for independent businesses like the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, American Booksellers Association, and National Grocers Association, as well as place-based independent business associations representing a variety of industries, like Louisville Independent Business Alliance and Local First Arizona.
Through Small Business Rising, business owners have testified in front of Congress, shared their stories with media and policymakers, pushed for stronger antitrust laws, and pressed their representatives to level the playing field for independent businesses.
Together, Small Business Rising’s members represent more than 300,000 independent businesses, and news media are taking notice. The Hill described the coalition as “playing a pivotal role in high-profile debates over antitrust,” and helping “sway lawmakers to advance legislation to break up the largest tech companies through the House Judiciary Committee.” SBR was featured in a popular Time magazine article about why the Federal Trade Commission may go after Walmart. The American Prospect profiled SBR’s campaign against credit card swipe fees, saying “Small Business Rising has targeted its arguments to lawmakers on swipe fee reform around […] macroeconomic trends, while also telling localized personal stories about businesses’ struggles. They’ve assembled a broad array of store owners to deliver the campaign’s message to lawmakers directly.”
While the Amazon lawsuit plays out in court over the next few years, SBR coalition partners will continue pressing for better federal antitrust enforcement. They are also taking their call for a level playing field to the state level, with momentum growing for better antitrust action in states like New York, Minnesota, and Maine.
Whether working alongside Congressional legislators or key federal agency leaders, Small Business Rising provides a crucial voice in the fight to contain rising monopoly power and foster fair competition. “Policymakers from Congress to federal agencies to City Councils must heed the calls of the small business community for a return to fairness in our economy,” said Lauren Gellatly, Advocacy and Campaigns Manager at ILSR and representative for SBR. “The tide is turning and we are making progress in reversing decades of autonomy for the biggest and most harmful monopoly players. Small businesses are the cornerstone for our communities and we will continue to advocate for a fair playing field in accordance with American laws and ideals.”
For more information about SBR, visit SmallBusinessRising.net or contact coalition coordinator Lauren Gellatly at info[at]smallbusinessrising.net.
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