Raising the Bar on Political Activism

During my time as Chairman of the National Restaurant Association, I worked - and continue to work - in fulfilling the platform I outlined: Raising the bar on excellence in guest service, political activism and nurturing and growing the workforce. I had opportunities to share these important messages to a wide variety of audiences including restaurant-and-foodservice leaders, students and political and civic leaders.

I strongly believe that an industry that posts $440 billion in sales, has an overall economic impact of $1.2 trillion, operates 878,000 establishments and employs 12 million hardworking individuals can make a strong impact across the country - from local communities to state legislatures to Capitol Hill. We need to speak with one voice to highlight all the positive aspects of our great industry. Taking an interest in grassroots political activism should be a top priority for professional leaders of our industry, including restaurants and foodservice suppliers and distributors.

Each day, legislators on all levels of government make decisions that impact us all. And, as elected officials, they should hear from their constituents (that means you!) to better understand why and how an issue or a piece of legislation is important. I encourage all of you to take action and get involved in the political process.

For example, legislation pending on Capitol Hill would provide small businesses more accessible and affordable quality health care for their employees and millions of uninsured Americans. Known as Association Health Plans (AHPs), this legislation would enable small businesses and their employees to benefit from the same opportunities that large corporations, their employees and labor unions receive: affordable health care through economies of scale, greater bargaining power, regulatory uniformity and flexibility in health benefit design, and increased competition in health insurance markets. Through AHPs, members of trade associations would have access to affordable health care. We need your help in contacting your member of Congress now to tell him or her why this is important and what it would mean for your business.

Other top industry issues that can impact the growth of a restaurant business and part of the Association's pro-employee/pro-employer legislative agenda include sensible immigration reform, business meal deductibility, the permanent repeal of the death tax, federally funded workforce development, food safety and security issues, tort reform and topics related to nutrition and healthy lifestyles. These issues are important not only to restaurant operators, but to every related industry. As the restaurant-and-foodservice industry generates an overall economic impact of $1.2 trillion, it is also important to the overall economic health of the U.S.

Clearly, the health and growth of the restaurant industry is important on many levels, and your involvement is essential. I urge all of you to get involved and join us in raising the bar on political activism.

Regynald G. Washington, FMP, CFBE, is chairman of the National Restaurant Association,
Washington, DC. Visit http://www.restaurant.org

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