On Tuesday, November 3, in Washington, D.C., more than 130 small business owners from 25 states, gathered on Capitol Hill and at the White House to urge that Congress reform health care. Three ABA member booksellers -- Betsy Burton of The King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City; Joanne Drake of Tea Party Bookshop in Salem, Oregon; and Cathy Anderson of The Briar Patch in Bangor, Maine -- participated in the lobbying effort at the invitation of the event's organizers. In an effort to help ensure that the unique financial realities of ABA's bookstore members were represented, ABA CEO Oren Teicher also took part in the day's activities, which included a White House meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Small Business Administration Director Karen G. Mills.
Tea Party's Drake told BTW that the day was "fabulous," and she had traveled from Oregon to Washington, D.C., because of the importance of health care reform. "Here was an opportunity to do something about it. I told [my senators and members of congress], I traveled 3,000 miles to tell you that [health care reform] is important to me ... and to small business owners across the country."
"It was a wonderful trip," said Anderson. "I am not sure we changed anyone's mind, but most of the people gave us their time and really listened to some very powerful stories. The message was clear that we need better health care and affordable insurance, and we need it now, before we are squeezed out of business by the ever-increasing, disproportionate costs. It was exciting to be part of the 'process' of change, and clear that we need to do it more."
Anderson added: "I was impressed that there were three booksellers there, and Oren Teicher of ABA was the only person there who represented many independent businesses -- not a surprise, really, since ABA has been at the forefront of so much Main Street change -- but very appreciated."
"What a day," said John Karatzas, state outreach director of Small Business Majority, one of the event's main sponsors. "The energy that was generated was contagious, and everyone was thrilled to meet other small business people who thought like themselves and wanted the same outcome."
Karatzas reported that Sebelius and Mills "encouraged us with strong words of support. We met with senators and congressmen throughout the day, sending them a strong message to work on reform. I think they understood. Small business is a critical constituency in this process, and a whole range of businesses -- from bookstores to software companies -- stood together and spoke clearly and effectively to their elected officials."
Drake said the key health care issue for Tea Party Bookshop is affordability, and that was the message she tried to get across to her congressional reps. Overall, she felt that they were receptive to her pitch. "It's important to get in front of people," she said. "This event has inspired me to become more active."
The four main sponsors of Tuesday's lobbying day were the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the Main Street Alliance, Small Business Majority, and Consumers Union. Other sponsors included the American Booksellers Association, the American Independent Business Alliance, Business Forward, Employee Benefits Cooperative, Massachusetts Fishermen's Partnership, the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, National Council of Asian American Businesses, and New Voice of Business. --David Grogan