Why We Need Legislative Advocacy

One of the most important things a trade association can do for its members is to advocate on their behalf in Congress, state legislatures, and through regulatory authorities. These entities make decisions that can help or hurt American businesses, the critical structures through which our nation’s economic system functions.

At minimum, businesses need our policy makers to understand how small and large companies are organized and how these companies must operate to produce goods and services at a reasonable profit. It’s also important for these individuals to consider the impact of their actions on all businesses as they institute policy changes for one specific industry. As an example, the recent imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs on many countries—all to advance American steel—is already negatively impacting 40 percent of American businesses at large. For the foodservice equipment industry, continued tariffs could cause supply chain disruptions if manufacturers need to look to other countries to save costs. These shifts could mean business losses for distributors and dealers.

Businesses also need government officials to avoid punishing entire industries for the actions of individual players. After the financial crisis, the federal government began regulating banks and other financial institutions so excessively that economic growth in many communities was hindered for years and countless qualified individuals were unable to purchase homes for a long period of time. The goal of government should be to carefully balance the interests of businesses and individuals so that everyone wins.

History shows that some policy makers advocate for overregulation because they believe businesses care more about money than people. In fact, because a business’s success depends on the talent and continuity of their employees, businesses are usually the first to institute programs and policies that benefit workers. This year, FEDA members need to carefully monitor lengthy new labor law proposals created by newly-elected leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives, which advance a long list of employment law changes. Some of those changes include raising the white-collar exemption salary threshold to $47,476, requiring employers to provide a minimum of seven days of paid sick leave and 12 weeks of family/medical leave, and requiring mandatory worker representation on the boards of all publicly-held companies. FEDA must have a voice on these proposals before they are introduced as legislation, as passage of such laws could significantly affect future generations of distributors and dealers.

FEDA also must advocate for policies that address labor shortages in the hospitality industry. Finding compromises and solutions to immigration policies can help operators stabilize and strengthen their labor pools, which will benefit our industry overall.

Also, as in recent years, bills related to technology, energy, environment, commercial interior design, and education may be introduced in 2019. All these issues can involve new policies that may hurt or help FEDA member companies.

It is more important now than ever before that FEDA expand its influence with policy makers, especially congressional leaders. FEDA members are encouraged to participate in the 2019 Annual Conference in Phoenix April 3-6.  Several key members of Congress will speak and FEDA members will have the opportunity to share information with them about our industry and help them learn more about distributor and dealer needs. FEDA also is working with the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW) on FEDA’s Fall 2019 Advocacy Council meeting in Washington D.C., where FEDA members will meet with congressional leaders and their staffs.

The next FEDA Advocacy Council meeting will be Feb. 28, 2019, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. CST by video conference. For information about this council or FEDA’s legislative advocacy work, please contact Tracy Mulqueen at tracy@feda.com or 224-293-6501.