Now, more than ever, advocating for the interests of yourself, your business, and your community is vital. Being an advocate takes many different forms, but primarily entails supporting a change or creation of an issue on any level of government – local, state, or Federal.
People, yes including yourself, can voice opinions through email, letter, public forums, or even social media. Certainly, it’s easy to depend on the industry’s paid advocates who are hired as political policy professionals more commonly known as lobbyists, but your voice as a constituent on the frontlines is critical to advocacy success. In short, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.
As Americans, we have the legal right to provide input on proposed government legislation; Federal agencies, for example, are required by law to provide the public ample opportunity to comment on propositions before they are enacted. Public commentary can also take place on a more regional scope – you can write emails to your state and local representatives or attend advocacy-oriented events like fly-ins and town halls. Be sure to follow proper protocol and decorum when advocating for yourself: do not pledge support, money, or favors, in return for support on certain issues. Be prepared to state your case, tell your story, and provide additional materials for reference whenever relevant.
Commentary can be as short as a sentence or as long as a speech and can touch on a single aspect of a bill or the piece of legislation in its entirety. Anyone has the right to voice their opinions, regardless of qualifications, expertise, or experience – if legislation impacts you or your business, join the public policy process and do not be afraid to make your voice heard!
The onset of the pandemic really lit a fire under advocacy movements, as business owners and everyday Americans alike pushed to get more involved in policy that impacted their health, safety, and livelihoods. In our current post-pandemic environment, advocacy is even more important – especially for smaller businesses seeking government support. Policy matters that really encouraged restaurateur advocacy were access to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds and Healthy and Safe Workplaces tax credit, loan forgiveness, as well as ways to improve outdoor dining and takeout experiences, the latter two of which remain crucial to restaurants across the nation. Another domain that we’ve seen become increasingly important to restaurants is access to improved natural gas access and infrastructure, as restaurants rely heavily on gas cooking to conduct regular operations.
Two significant areas of advocacy for us at the moment in the JanSan industry are improved access to hygiene products and essential workers. We’re pushing Congress to support trade policies that enhance our ability to improve global competitiveness, grow the economy, and support American people and businesses by removing or suspending Section 301 tariffs – especially those on cleaning and hygiene-related products and materials. The existing tariffs on 301 products burden smaller and larger businesses alike, as substantial price hikes for commercial consumers translated to higher sale prices for the everyday consumer like you and me.
We’re also pushing for support for the Essential Workers for Economic Advancement Act, which addresses the dire need for non-seasonal temporary labor, an issue that is particularly prevalent in the restaurant industry, where thousands of jobs go unfilled each month. Creating a market-driven visa program that allows American companies to supplement their U.S. workforce with temporary foreign workers when efforts to recruit American workers are unsuccessful provides a legal path to employment to fill essential positions.
A great example of an industry association that is involved in advocacy work is the New York City Hospitality Alliance. The Andrew Rigie led Alliance is fighting for policies that support New York City’s restaurant and nightlife industry. They advocate to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens, streamline the permit and licensing process, cut the red tape, and represent the industry’s perspective on proposed laws, regulations, trends, and other matters impacting restaurant and nightlife establishments. We admire Andrew’s approach to the importance of Advocacy: “As New York City’s restaurant and nightlife industry fights to recover from the pandemic, we’re unfortunately seeing more government proposals that will make it harder for these small businesses to succeed. So, we urge restaurateurs to build relationships with their elected officials and government representatives and join organizations like the NYC Hospitality Alliance to ensure they individually and our industry collectively has a voice advocating for them.”
For those looking to get involved with more specific policy matters, www.regulations.gov is a great place to begin. The website details the development of Federal regulations, and lets you identify, read about, and comment on regulatory issues of importance to you and your business. The Small Business Administration is another resource to make your voice heard. Its Office of Advocacy serves as an independent voice for small businesses and advances the views of small business owners before Congress, the White House, different federal agencies and courts, and state policymakers.
Advocacy, more than ever, is an integral part of the policymaking process and in the best interests of your business. It takes many forms, occurs at all levels of government, and is accessible and open to all, policy expert or not. By getting involved, you ensure that your concerns and opinions are heard, and that the interests of your business remain central to the goals of policymakers across the country.