The State Of The Coalition
By Jay Singh, Chairman, NCASEF, President, San Antonio FOA
These are tough times. The COVID-19 pandemic is testing our will and the resilience of all the people around us. It is a very painful test that continues to take away precious lives and freedoms, and paralyze our world as we know it. Since the beginning of the pandemic in March, the National Coalition has canceled three board meetings and a convention, we have transitioned to Zoom Board meetings once per month, we are re-evaluating our financial status, and we have started a Telegram app group that has blossomed to 906 franchisees representing some 3,500-4,000 stores.
Our members have had a very rough time throughout the pandemic, and our employees and our customers have also been deeply affected. Overall in Membership, the NCASEF fared very well. We have added new franchisee members, but we have lost some members too as a result of our efforts to weed out and eliminate some 508 duplicate memberships on the National Coalition books caused by franchisees joining more than one FOA. (There are benefits to being in more than one FOA, like more social activities and access to other franchisees.)
I would like to recognize the Delaware Valley FOA particularly for working on membership this year and adding some 46 new members. In the state of Washington, two FOAs merged to form the Greater Northwest FOA, and overall, NCASEF has added approximately eight members in the Member-At-Large category, which is in our bylaws. We have this category, I believe, because our founding franchisees may have thought it would take time to organize viable FOAs in different parts of the country. The Member-At-Large category allows underrepresented areas to at least have representation nationally through NCASEF. Members-At-Large have all the rights of members in local FOAs, except that they cannot vote. They can run for office and the National Coalition can represent them in any way we can, but I think it was part of the vision of the founding franchisee officers of this great organization to provide representation for every franchisee, even if they cannot organize an FOA or if there are not enough stores in that region.
Acquired stores from Marathon (approximately 3,900) and Sunoco (1,008 stores), will become NCASEF members when the time comes and they are franchised. Existing franchisees who purchase these stores should join the NCASEF as multiples.
The California misclassification lawsuit, Serge Haitayan, et al vs. 7-Eleven, Inc., filed by four franchisees in October 2017, being prepared by Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, has gone to the next stage. According our lawyer, mediation should be finished by December 28 of this year, with the case going to trial on March 22, 2020. The discovery phase is already in progress, and both parties have to agree to the mediation. It is possible SEI will not agree because the action is not binding. This is an incredibly important case for 7-Eleven franchisees as it affects our independent contractor status and potentially our Franchise Agreement.
Convention And Board Meetings
Due to COVID-19 health restrictions surrounding travel and the resulting hotel regulations, NCASEF had to cancel three Board meetings and a trade show and convention in 2020. Franchisees and our vendor partners, concerned for the safety of our families and our employees, have transitioned to Zoom meetings for the foreseeable future.
Since July, all NCASEF Board meetings have been held virtually, once per month, for 5-6 hours at a time. Each meeting has had presentations from 5-6 vendors who want to get their message to franchisees. We are still planning our May 2021 meeting to be held in Long Island, New York. Our Zoom meetings have worked out well, with over 90 percent of our FOAs represented at each meeting.
We are pleased to announce our 2020 Convention and Trade Show will be held via Zoom on November 17-18 from noon to 8 pm CST. No one has to travel, franchisees will soon be able to register fro free, and vendors can still buy booths and take orders (see NCASEF.com for more information). We will still have a franchisee Legal Forum, and State Of The Coalition/Ask The Chairman Sessions. This arrangement only makes sense, since most companies do not permit their employees to travel at the current time.
After canceling our August convention and trade show at the National Harbor Gaylord Hotel in Washington, D.C., we have agreed to schedule our 2021 convention and trade show at the Gaylord in Orlando, Florida, virus permitting. We have not made any changes to our Affiliate Program for 2021.
Elections For NCASEF Officers
According to our bylaws we must have elections for NCASEF vice chairman every two years, and there are no proxies allowed. In keeping with the strict secrecy rules we adopted for our elections last year, I think it is in our best interests to postpone our election from this November to May 2021. The Board will discuss this and vote on it during our November meeting. If health restrictions due to COVID-19 by some miracle are rolled back by the end of the year, we will plan to have a meeting and tabletop trade show in Dallas sometime in February 2021. Our next chance would be in Long Island in May, if the CDC eases restrictions on travel. We plan to poll the Board this month to see how they feel about travel for these meetings.
Telegram App For Franchisee Communications
I would like to give a special shout out to Neil Shaw, a franchisee from Boston, for suggesting we form a discussion group on Telegram due to its unlimited number of participants. The day after his suggestion we put rules in place and formed a group that crossed the 300-person mark in two days. We now have over 906 franchisee members communicating. I took a personal interest in this because my main motive was that every franchisee should have access to participation.
When I look at the posts on the group, I see discussions on topics like maintenance, accounting, and the cash register being stuck. It’s helping franchisees big time. I would like to thank every franchise who has joined. My eventual goal is to have 1,500 franchisees representing 4,500 stores communicating with each other. For a franchisee to ask a question of the entire group it takes only a single post. For national officers to communicate with franchisees it is easy, it is 24/7, and it is restricted to business posts only. To join, send a message to your local FOA or to the NCASEF national office at firstname.lastname@example.org. You must be a franchisee and preferably a paying member of the National Coalition.
These are trying times for everyone, but I believe we can be patient and work with each other. The National Coalition is committed to supporting franchisees as well as our vendor partners, whose support is crucial to us. Thank you for your sponsorship, you are helping us tremendously.