How to Fight Unfair Laws

From occupational licenses to outright caps and bans on who can work, red tape is increasingly ensnaring entrepreneurs.

All too often, these types of regulations unfairly disadvantage small business owners just trying to make an honest living. But there are ways you and fellow entrepreneurs can take action and fight against these laws.

Inform Yourself

When challenging a proposed law or one that’s already on the books, it’s crucial to first research it extensively. Check the city council or state legislature website for the proposed bill or ordinance, or the city code or state statutes if the law has already been enacted. Read slowly and deliberately, and take plenty of notes. Sometimes, the clerk’s office or a legal clinic can explain a law if it’s particularly complex or intricate.

In addition to thoroughly reading the legislation itself, be sure to keep track of any and all media coverage the law has earned so far. Poring over all these articles, opinion pieces and TV segments lets you develop expertise on the law, and these media hits can also let you gauge public opinion. Seeing what other citizens, organizations, businesses and lawmakers think about the legislation is vital when crafting talking points and a legislative strategy.

Create an Organization

By creating a grassroots organization, you can find strength in numbers. For starters, reach out to other business owners who might be affected by the same law. Once you’ve recruited members, develop a clear objective and stay focused on accomplishing that goal. It’s very easy to get sidetracked or overreach.

Appealing to your customers is a great way to widen support. While they wait in line, pass out fliers informing them what’s at stake. Get them to sign petitions and contact their legislators. If you created a Web presence for your grassroots group, be sure to let your customers know how they can follow you on social media for the latest updates.

Additionally, seek other organizations that might have a stake in defeating unfair laws. For instance, African hair braiders, which have been the target of licensing regulations, may find help through local chapters of the NAACP. Depending on the regulation, other groups, like local chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations, homeowners associations and nonprofits, may also lend a helping hand.

Make Noise

With a new organization and allies in tow, it’s important to gain media attention to publicize your cause. Selectively pitch newspaper and TV reporters who may be interested in your cause. When making the initial pitch, keep it short—no more than 30 seconds.

Holding events, like rallies or protests, can be another effective way to get the media to cover issues that they wouldn’t normally spotlight.

For example, until recently, Milwaukee only allowed 321 taxis on the city’s streets. This cap on cabs created artificial scarcity to the point where owning a taxi medallion (i.e. permit) cost more than buying a house. To protest their treatment, and with help from the Institute for Justice, taxi drivers in Milwaukee held a “freedom ride” and put signs on their cars reading “Taxi Freedom: Let Me Own My Own Cab! More Taxi Choices.” Ultimately, Milwaukee repealed its cap, letting more drivers fulfill their American dream and own their own cabs.