The Power of the Vote

On June 10th, we had just concluded day one of FMI Connect and a speech by Hillary Clinton coinciding with the release of her book, "Hard Choices," when my phone buzzed with a full screen of missed calls, voicemails and texts. An overactive iPhone never leaves a dull impression of the developments to come. The completely unexpected revelation was that the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Eric Cantor, had lost his primary to a completely unknown and underfunded economics professor from a tiny college in Ashland, Va., by around 7,500 votes.

The lesson: By not voting and not engaging your elected officials, you must work with a government determined by those who do vote and do meet with their elected officials.

In a congressional district with 750,000 voters, the leadership of the House of Representatives was completely turned upside down by 1 percent of the eligible voters not voting (37,000 people voted for Cantor in his 2012 primary, which would have been enough to win this race).

To help our members engage with the electoral process, FMI has created a completely non-partisan Voting Resources web page that anyone can use to find out how to register to vote in their areas; deadlines for absentee voting; information on the candidates; an election outlook; and basic information about how our government works (or doesn't work at times).

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) with Hy-Vee employees during a pharmacy store tour in Nebraska.
Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa) during a recent store tour at a Schnuck Markets, Inc. location in Iowa.

Supermarkets have something every elected official wants and few other businesses have – lots of potential voters. The average supermarket employs nearly 100 people and serves more than 13,000 customers per week. During the month of August, when most representatives are in their home states, invite your Member of Congress/Senator to your store/distribution center. Send us a photo in your store or parking lot with your Member of Congress or Senator, and we will send your store manager a flag that has been flown over the U.S. Capitol, perfect to fly at the store or display.

You may be asking, What can I show my Member of Congress/Senator? There are so many issues Members of Congress must vote on that are brought to life in your store. Show them the banana display; show them how you label country of origin and might get written up if someone breaks a bunch of bananas apart; or show them how you are going to have to label where meat was "slaughtered" – hardly the appetizing vision you are trying to achieve. Show them the deli case and the work you do to ensure food safety. Show them the cereal aisle and our voluntary "Facts Up Front" initiative to help customers find the products they want in order to achieve their nutritional goals. Introduce them to your dietitian if you have one in store. Show them how labeling gluten-free items rather than those products that may contain gluten is a better solution for customers who want to avoid gluten, just as labeling GMO-free would make more sense than labeling those items that may contain GMO ingredients. Show them what a challenge it would be to have to determine and label the calorie count of a ripe watermelon before you cut it and put it in the deli/salad bar area if supermarkets are forced to comply with restaurant menu labeling rules. Show them how you help WIC or SNAP customers.

Engaging your representatives, your customers and your employees in the electoral process is an important part of guaranteeing those in office understand our industry issues and are working towards solutions that will benefit food retailers nationwide.

More information is available on the Government Relations page of the FMI website or by contacting Jennifer Hatcher, senior vice president, government and political affairs, FMI, at [email protected] . Follow us on Twitter: @FMI_GR.