Political Engagement and Grassroots: Why it is so important for independent grocers

October 10, 2018

The right to petition the government was a bedrock principle of the Founding Fathers. Over many generations, political engagement, including grassroots advocacy has become a sophisticated activity for political parties, corporations, unions, nonprofits – just about anyone who is impacted by government.

The independent grocery industry has a huge impact on America’s economy with $131 billion in sales, nearly one million jobs, and $30 billion in wages. With such a large economic footprint, it is increasingly important that policymakers in Washington hear first-hand from grocery executives about how legislation and regulations directly impact the supermarket industry, their employees, and ultimately, the consumers they serve.

Grassroots is defined as the most basic level of an activity or organization, but grassroots action implies a sustained and personal communication between people and representatives of government. Grassroots involvement from trade associations, such as NGA, is the most effective way for independent grocers to be heard in the halls of Congress and at the state and local levels of government.

By and large, independent supermarket operators are family-owned, private enterprises with deep local roots. They are important—very important—constituents for U.S. representatives and senators, not only as major employers and economic drivers, but also as bellwethers of economic, political and demographic trends affecting households, families and, of course, voters. Members of Congress know that Main Street Grocers produce Main Street Jobs.

One of the best ways to get involved in the political process is through store tours.  The purpose of the store tour is to educate your Member of Congress on what issues are most important to you and your company. Often times, Members of Congress want to hear about how many people you employ, the customers you serve in your local community, what types of special events or community service projects you’re involved in, and how laws and regulations impact your bottom line. It’s important to remember that most Members are not experts on how issues may impact the grocery industry, which is why they look to experienced professionals in the field like you to help them have a better understanding of the significance of their votes in DC.

So far this year we’ve had 10 NGA members host store tours – all of which were described as a very beneficial and positive experience for the store operator and Member of Congress. NGA would like to increase the number of store tours, and we need help from our members. If you would like to host a store tour, or would like more information about what to expect, please contact Channing Pejic atc pejic@nationalgrocers.org. Channing will be able to assist with all of the logistics for the visit, including contacting the Member’s office and working with you to find a date that works for on all sides. Every independent grocer has a unique story to share, and we want to help you share your story.

While there are a number of grassroots advocacy tactics, it is all a part of a process of making sure that the voice of the independent grocer – your voice – gets heard where and when it most counts.