We’re Washington Bound

Words: Bronzella ClevelandPaul Odom, MCAA Chairman Happy Spring!! The days are getting longer and the temperature
is much better—at least in Texas!! Spring means 
it’s time to gear up and be ready to hit Capitol Hill next month. The Legislative Conference is May 15th through 17th. The conference is a great way to let your representative know what they can do to help you and the masonry industry. The Keelan group is so good to brief us on issues to discuss and they have all the appointments set up in advance and provide handouts to give to the representatives. This makes the visits so easy. We hope you can all come. If you have already registered—great!! If not, please do that as quickly as possible. Just go to MCAA website to register. Be sure and register for the hotel also. On May 15th, we will be doing an optional event. We will tour Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is the home of Thomas Jefferson. It has many innovations for its time. We will be on a private tour that will give us the opportunity to have access to the home and grounds of President Jefferson. Our guide will focus on the architectural and construction features of Jefferson’s time. Transportation and lunch will be included with this event. We hope to have a great group. Susie will be with me, and we hope you invite your spouse as well. If there is a big enough group of wives, Susie has plans to tour the D.C. area during the days when we will be busy. Below are several important issues we will be discussing with our representatives. Workforce Development Mason contractors as a whole across the country, appear to be blessed with lots of work. This is great; however, we have a major problem: the lack of a robust, qualified workforce. The average construction worker is over age 40, and many are expected to retire in the near future leaving us in bad shape. The masonry industry literally has thousands of jobs that we can’t fill with qualified workers. Unfortunately, vocational programs were terminated years ago as funding from the government dried up. We need help from our legislators desperately for workforce development. Misclassification of Employees as Independent Contractors Some contractors in the construction industry are deliberately misclassifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees to avoid payroll taxes, insurance premiums and other employment expenses in order to boost company profits. This practice grossly undercuts honest, law abiding contractors and deprives the federal, state, and local governments from millions of dollars in tax revenue. Congress should direct the Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service to work together to improve enforcement mechanisms and protocols. Classifying workers correctly will help to address millions in lost revenue to the federal government. Guest Worker Program We need a broad based, comprehensive immigration reform approach that includes provisions to secure our nation’s borders, creates a temporary guest worker program that meets the demand for labor, and creates a process for addressing the undocumented workers who are currently employed in the U.S. Recent estimates have shown that the construction industry will require an average of 185,000 new workers per year to meet growing workforce demands, while at the same time baby boomers are continuing to retire at a very fast rate. It is well known that the construction industry faces a growing problem of a shortage of skilled labor. We need Congress to reform our immigration policies and include a guest worker program. Concrete Masonry Checkoff NCMA, our partners in the industry, are requesting Congressional authorization to allow concrete block manufacturers the opportunity to create a commodity checkoff program that would support industry research, education, and promotion. Because other industries already have such authorization, this bill simply provides a level playing field for fair market competition. The checkoff is at no cost to the federal government. This program will be a source of revenue that will be used to promote our industry. As you can see, there are some important items that need to be addressed by Congress. I encourage each of you to come, and personally have a discussion with your representatives. They do listen and together as a group we can make a difference. See you in May on the Hill, Paul Odom
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