By Stephen A. Borg
What a great week in Washington, D.C., for the Mason Contractors Association of America’s (MCAA) annual Masonry Industry Legislative Conference. We made the most of our time, both on and off Capitol Hill, and had yet another successful effort. We had representatives from states throughout the country who took the time to meet with Representatives and Senators from their home states, and I wanted to take this time to give you a brief recap of our efforts.
The MCAA had four main issues that we discussed this year during every visit. We tried to hit home the numerous ways that federal laws and regulations impact the mason contracting industry. Our top legislative effort was once again to ask Representatives and Senators to cosponsor the Concrete Masonry Products, Research, Education, and Promotion Act (introduced by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL)), which as you know would provide the legal authority for the concrete block industry to hold a referendum vote on setting up a “check-off” program for the industry.
Our efforts on this front had an immediate impact as Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle officially signed onto the legislation before the MCAA even left town. Follow-up efforts continue for our members, and we are confident that we will continue to add even more cosponsors in the weeks ahead.
While this was, by far, our top legislative issue, it was by no stretch our only legislative task. Broad-based immigration reform continues to be a lingering issue on Capitol Hill with the potential to, once again, rise to the surface during the Presidential campaigns. We thought it to be prudent to remind Members of Congress that the MCAA is fully supportive of a guest worker program for the construction industry and strong liability protections for employers, should the federal government expand or mandate the use of an “E-Verify” system during the hiring process. Members of Congress were very supportive of these requests, and many vowed to keep this and the misclassification of employees as independent contractors on their radar screens as the legislative process rolls forward.
Continuing efforts we have made for more than two years, our other top priority was our unending commitment to showing Members of Congress and the federal government the true impact that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) proposed new rule on workplace exposure to crystalline silica would have on the mason contracting industry and the construction industry as a whole.
We reminded everyone with whom we met that workplace safety and health remain our top priorities, and we are fully committed to meeting the current standards as set by OSHA. However, we do believe that OSHA has not made a case for the need of the new rules; has not accurately taken into account the actual feasibility of complying with the new standards; and has drastically underestimated the true cost to the construction industry in implementing this rule.
The feedback we received from Members of Congress on this topic was encouraging, and we look forward to continuing to work with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to ensure that OSHA takes another look at this rule before rashly implementing it.
While we were on Capitol Hill, President Mark Kemp, Executive Director Jeff Buczkiewicz, and various members of the MCAA took the time to present our annual “MCAA Freedom and Prosperity Award” to four Members of Congress who have been adamant supporters of small businesses and our industry as a whole.
This year’s award recipients were:
- Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI)
- Representative Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)
- Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL)
- Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV)
While we had a hard and long couple of days hitting Capitol Hill, we also had opportunities to participate in some rather fun events. During the beginning of the week, members of our South of 40 Committee and MCAA leadership were able to take two amazing tours of Washington, D.C., landmarks.
First on the schedule was a behind-the-scenes masonry tour of the Library of Congress. When not being slyly shamed for looking at our phones by our gregarious tour guide, we were learning quite a few fun, historical facts about the library and its contents. The second tour has become almost legendary within the MCAA as, once again, Representative Reid Ribble (R-WI) was kind enough to take our group on a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the U.S. Capitol building. These two tours not only were extremely informative, but also they served as a great way for our group to get our feet wet on Capitol Hill and learn our way through the Halls of Congress.
We appreciate all of the MCAA members who took the time out of their busy schedules to join us in Washington, D.C., to advocate for our industry. We cannot overstate the importance of this week and the impact it has on our industry.
Keep an eye out for information regarding our 2016 Masonry Industry Legislative Conference. We hope to see you there!