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Tom Zaucha, the defender of the independent sector, has faced many competitive challenges in his 27-year career as head of the National Grocers Association, Arlington, Va. In his final year as president and chief executive officer before retirement, the challenges will be no less daunting.
Under a new Obama administration, Zaucha was quick to voice NGA’s concerns — increases in corporate tax rates and labor costs, relief from the federal estate tax, and anticompetitive practices of credit card companies’ and banks’ interchange fees and rules. He urged the new administration to enforce antitrust laws to maintain a level playing field for food retailers big and small. NGA endorsed the Credit Card Fair Fee Act that would help curtail, through a negotiation process, high interchange fees charged to merchants to process customers’ credit and debit cards.
On such issues, NGA has become more collaborative with other food-related trade associations. He recently petitioned for independents to be represented in the newly formed Consumer Goods Forum, an international group formed to address industry issues on a worldwide basis.
For the remainder of his term, Zaucha will preside over multiple agendas, including the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for employees to form unions. Obama supports it. Zaucha considers it a win that the bill so far has stalled in the Senate even though newly arrived Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., sparked attention by becoming a co-sponsor of the bill this month.
Food safety is a major focus. The Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009, which would expand the Food and Drug Administration’s authority over such issues, was recently passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Jerry Garland, president and CEO of Associated Wholesale Grocers, and No. 18 in SN’s Power 50, called Zaucha a “champion of the independent retailer, offering legislative support, outstanding annual conventions and conferences, and quality educational programs.”
Bobby Ukrop, president and CEO of Ukrop’s Super Markets, said it will be hard to replace Zaucha’s passion for his job when he retires in 2010. “He is so passionate about the role independents play in the marketplace.”
— Jessica Assimon