What Exactly Does Advocacy In Vending Mean?

July 23, 2015

Lately, we have heard a lot about advocacy as NAMA geared up for its first Fly In, an open invitation for any member of the association to come to Washington, D.C. and talk to their representatives about the current issues important to the vending industry. I had the honor of being one of those members and it was an amazing experience that has left me proud.

NAMA opened this event to all its members and the response was overwhelming. The expectation was for 50 to 80 attendees, but more than 200 actually participated and 45 percent of those participants were operators. So many industry members wanted to voice their concerns and be part of advocacy that a second hotel was needed to fit everyone. NAMA did an excellent job at the event, which was organized, educational and fun. 

Advocacy, my definition

As Eric Dell, NAMA's senior vice president of government affairs, took attendees (many first time participants like myself) through a presentation on what to expect, I developed a new definition for advocacy. Instead of an abstract idea of supporting a policy, or lack thereof, I realized it was voicing an opinion and building a relationship with the people who have power to affect our lives. 

What were we focusing on for this event? Three things: coin changes (oppose), more consideration on how laws will affect small businesses (support) and calorie disclosure guidelines (assistance). I didn't have many meetings on Capitol Hill, and I only saw one actual Member of Congress (which I'm told makes me one of the lucky ones.) However, meeting with congressional staff is a positive and invaluable experience. They listened well, were interested in our concerns and shared how their Member of Congress would likely view a bill or help on our behalf. 

I gained new insight into how our government is laid out and works in Washington, D.C. and was pleased that candidates from both sides talked to each other and gave each other credit for valid points. I felt heard and I quickly understood how one voice, a single person, coming together with others can show a Member of Congress how important or impactful an issue is to an industry. 

I have new respect for advocacy, which I'm told is a long process, as is anything that is worthwhile. The Fly In allowed me to be part of something larger – a voice for vending, its relevancy, its job creation, its family-business roots and its importance to the communities it both employs and serves. I was one of 200+ individuals in 2015 that said these things and I can't wait to return to D.C. next year. 

About the Author

Emily Refermat | Editor

Emily has been living and breathing the vending industry since 2006 and became Editor in 2012. Usually Emily tries the new salted snack in the vending machine, unless she’s on deadline – then it’s a Snickers.

Feel free to reach Emily via email here or follow her on Twitter @VMW_Refermat.


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