“Meeting with our representatives and having them listen to our stories and hear our concerns reminds me that we live in a great country that values all of its citizens.”
The above quote from David Mitchell of Mitchell’s Flower Shop in Orland Park, IL, perhaps sums up the sentiments of the nearly 90 floral industry members who gathered in the nation’s capital in March for the Society of American Florists’ (SAF) Congressional Action Days.
“Tomorrow you are lobbyists; you are the ones who will tell lawmakers your stories and how issues affect you and your business,” wholesaler and event emcee Paul Fowle of DVFlora in Miami told attendees on Monday, March 14, just before they began making the rounds on Capitol Hill.
2016 marked the 36th time SAF has held the two-day event (this year co-sponsored by BloomNet, CalFlowers, FTD, and Teleflora). Attendees included retailers, wholesalers, growers, manufacturers, and association representatives from 25 states.
On the first day, attendees learned about the issues and how to use their clout as constituents — all in preparation for day two, when they headed to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress and their legislative aides to advocate the industry’s issues.
During their visits, attendees brought determination, stories of hard work, and practical, targeted solutions to dozens of meetings on Capitol Hill, replacing gridlock and stand-offs with open lines of communication and new contacts. While not every attendee was rushed to the Senate floor for a one-on-one chat, all of them had the opportunity to meet with key staff members of elected officials.
And SAF’s delegation took its civic role — to advocate industry issues — seriously. According to SAF’s recap, many members ended the annual two-day conference with a sense of deep satisfaction, not to mention smartphones filled with names, phone numbers, and e-mails from congressional staff members and other industry members around the country.
More Than A Small Victory
One attendee in particular is seeing the fruits of his time spent at Congressional Action Days. A week after Mark Yelanich of Metrolina Greenhouses met with his local Congressman, Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) has agreed to co-sponsor the STARS Act (H.R. 863), a bill that clarifies the definition of “seasonal” workers in the Affordable Care Act. Learn more at SAF’s website.