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Grocers Gather On Capitol Hill To Advocate On Industry Issues

Day in Washington for grocers

More than 200 grocery retailers, wholesalers and food industry state association executives from across the nation convened in Washington, D.C., this week for the annual “Day in Washington” supermarket industry fly-in. Members of the National Grocers Association (NGA), Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Food Industry Association Executives (FIAE) participated in more than 210 meetings with their elected officials and key Congressional staff to advocate on legislative issues such as healthcare, tax reform, chain restaurant menu labeling and data security during the two-day event, which wrapped up Thursday.

On top of many fly-in attendees’ agenda is the definition of a full-time employee, which is set at only 30 hours average per week per month, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The supermarket industry has been steadfast in seeking flexibility and ways to minimize new burdens under the ACA in order for food retailers and wholesalers to continue providing quality health coverage that is affordable to both the employee and the employer.

While the Administration has taken steps to provide some flexibility within the regulatory process, there are several outstanding concerns with the law itself that are impacting how grocers manage their workforce, adjust work schedules and offer employee benefits well beyond healthcare. Both FMI and NGA advocated in support of the Save American Workers Act (House Resolution 2575), which passed the U.S. House in April.

Michael Needler was one of the grocers on hand in Washington this week. He discussed issues with Ohio Republican Reps. Bob Latta, Jim Jordan, Pat Tiberi and Bill Johnson.

Needler, a former aide to Congressman Michael Oxley, currently sits on the board of directors for the Ohio Grocers Association and serves as the CEO of Ohio’s largest chain of independently owned supermarkets, Fresh Encounter Inc. Fresh Encounter currently employs more than 1,100 associates statewide and also maintains operations in Indiana. Retail stores operate under the banners of Great Scot, Community Markets and Sack & Save.

“Ohio grocers create over 44,000 direct jobs for the state and over $1 billion in tax revenue,” Needler said. “Ohio grocers also generate $5.6 billion in sales. These are important figures for our state and important to our economy. How we define full-time employment, safe labeling and tax reform is imperative to our business health. Washington needs to hear our voice.”

Added Peter J. Larkin, president and CEO of NGA, “The supermarket industry plays a critical role in our nation’s economic growth; creating jobs and paying billions in tax revenue. 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.”

Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI, said, “Supermarkets are the place where the real-life economic, social and health concerns of the American public become manifest. With such a close working relationship with their customers, this makes food retailers the voice our legislators need most to hear to help heal the existing disconnect between Washington, D.C., and the citizens they represent.”

Tennessee’s Jarron Springer receives 2014 MacManus Award

In related news, FMI on Thursday presented its state-focused public affairs award, the Donald H. MacManus Association Executive Award, to Jarron Springer, past president of the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association (TGCSA). After 15 years of measurable service to the industry, Springer received the highest recognition for a state affairs executive at an awards ceremony during the Day in Washington event.

Jarron Springer
Jarron Springer

“The MacManus Award was created in 1990 as a means of recognizing the valued efforts of association executives and honoring those demonstrating extraordinary leadership in public affairs, industry relations and community relations,” said Sarasin. “Jarron is a middle Tennessean who has dedicated himself to being in the middle of every state battle impacting our industry.”

During his tenure as president of TGCSA, representing the interests of retail grocery store and convenience store operations as well as food industry wholesalers, manufacturers, distributors and suppliers, Springer designed and implemented a campaign to advocate for the sale of wine in food stores that became known as “Red White and Food.” After seven years of work on the issue before the Tennessee General Assembly, a bill was enacted in March that will allow for local referendums to permit Tennesseans to decide if wine can be sold in food stores.

As another notable achievement, the association spearheaded a seven-year effort to extend the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) distribution dates from 10 to 20 days, eliminating an unnecessary strain on SNAP clients and retail customers in the form of long grocery lines. The work with the Tennessee Department of Human Services, Governor’s Office and Tennessee General Assembly also diminished stocking issues and labor concerns for retailers.

Springer demonstrated tireless efforts to resolve food access issues, which was further evidenced by serving as principal contact for the Tennessee Grocery Access Task Force that developed recommendations for state leaders to reduce “food deserts” across Tennessee.

During Springer’s nine years as president, the Tennessee Grocers Education Foundation (TGEF) endowment fund grew from $1.1 million to $1.8 million, and $1.4 million in scholarships were awarded to students in the industry. TGEF annual fundraising also increased during this time by 50 percent.

Springer served as board president of the Tennessee Society of Association Executives in 2012 as well as a member of the FMI Government Relations Committee, from 2009-2010. He also served as treasurer of the FIAE in 2013 and as a member of the Tennessee Food Safety Task Force and Keep Tennessee Beautiful Advisory Council.

In the feature photo at top: Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) addressed grocery industry members Thursday morning.

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Featured Photo PLMA Annual Private Label Trade Show
Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
Chicago, Illinois
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