Over the past few weeks, I have had the privilege of attending a series of meetings with our Association's staff in Washington, D.C. One of the most exciting meetings was an invitation to witness President George W. Bush sign the pension reform bill at the White House. The Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA) played a role in helping pass this landmark legislation, and to be able to witness the signing of this bill was an indication to me that the MCAA, through our strong staff, is helping to shape events in our nation's capital.
One must remember: While witnessing a presidential bill signing ceremony may seem a simple act, it is the culmination of what may be years of hard work and effort.
In addition to attending the pension bill signing, I also had the opportunity to participate in numerous meetings at the Department of Labor with our Association's Executive Director, Michael Adelizzi; Director of Engineering, Rashod Johnson; and our Director of Government Affairs, Jessica Johnson Bennett. In meeting after meeting, I was impressed by the depth of knowledge our staff had of the inner workings and key contacts at the Department of Labor, specifically at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In one meeting we met with the Assistant Secretary of Labor and signed a two-year extension of our Alliance with OSHA, which has paid great dividends to our industry. In another meeting, we met with officials to talk about silica, and in yet another meeting, we discussed wall bracing. In every meeting, our staff was engaged and influential in advancing the interests of our industry.
We also met with officials of the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) to sign our renewed international agreement, which has benefited our signatory members for more than 50 years. During these meetings, I was once again impressed with the depth of knowledge that our staff has with the LIUNA staff and the close working relationship we have built through years of working with the Laborers. In fact, today we are involved in conducting Masonry Best Practices seminars with the Laborers and their affiliates to train OSHA inspectors on how we run our businesses as mason contractors.
As a side note, the Masonry Best Practices seminar was designed to educate OSHA field inspectors on the quality safety practices MCAA members utilize to protect their employees. This seminar was also designed to provide a level of comfort with OSHA pertaining to the masonry industry and, more specifically, of our members. For years, our members have voiced concern that each new OSHA inspector would come on a job site with a completely different interpretation than the last inspector. That level of constant uncertainty has made it frustrating and expensive for mason contractors who are constantly changing gears to comply with each new interpretation. The Masonry Best Practices seminars for OSHA personnel should change all that for the better.
As I drove back to my office in Baltimore, I reflected on our MCAA meetings in Washington. I remembered years ago when the MCAA Board debated raising our dues to hire a full-time engineer and a full-time government affairs specialist to represent our interests in our nation's capital. As I attended each meeting, I realized the visionaries our Association had to think far into the future and to anticipate the impact these staff positions would have on our Association and our members. And I was most thankful that our strong group of members also saw the benefit of these positions when they agreed to pay the heavy membership dues increase to fund these positions.
From attending the pension bill signing at the White House, to influencing our legislators on Capitol Hill, to educating OSHA field personnel, I am pleased that our industry is in the capable hands of our MCAA professional staff.
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