Will You Accept the Call to Serve?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a part of the masonry industry. I have participated and contributed at many levels for our local and national associations. But, I had never ventured to Washington, D.C., to try my hand at lobbying for our issues.
I take pride in our industry and feel strongly about supporting it. By supporting the masonry industry, we can come up with solutions on how we can advance and protect our industry. Even with this conviction, I was still unsure about what to expect of this experience. Being that I was a newbie, Jeff Buczkiewicz of the MCAA and Stephen Borg of The Keelen Group made the transition easy for me.
The first day, I was paired or grouped with more seasoned individuals to visit the representatives’ offices. This was extremely helpful, because I was able to see how other members approached the meetings. It also allowed me the opportunity to chime in if I felt I had something to add to the meeting, but took the pressure off being the main presenter of information. By the following day, I felt confident and was ready to be the lead and let my voice be heard.
While we met mostly with higher level staff members, we were able to meet with some of the representatives. They all appreciated our taking the time and effort to come to Washington to voice our issues and concerns facing the masonry industry.
I found that many of the people with whom we spoke were unaware of how a check off program could benefit our industry or why we need to be given the opportunity to implement one. And, when we discussed silica, it was important we made clear the detrimental impact it could have on the industry were the rule is enforced. We assuring them that we hold employee safety as a top priority. They didn’t realize that many mason contractors are family businesses, and their employees are like family members. Without telling our representatives about these things, they have no idea what our industry demographic is or the dynamic among us.
Many of the representatives’ offices were familiar with our association coming to visit and the topics we discuss. This was wonderful to see! The more presence we have, the more our representatives will remember our industry when it is time to vote. This will benefit us in the future. We are gaining momentum, and it’s important that we keep it going. But, we can’t keep it going without more member involvement on the D.C. front.
We are all busy, and finding the extra time to put into our industry is always difficult. However, it is clear that, without us working together as a team, we won’t be able to continue to build awareness of our needs nor further the presence of our product.
Our industry needs us. We are still recovering from the economic downturn. Furthermore, we are in a competitive market with other wall systems and need a way to fight back. Without the check off program, this will prove difficult. And, if the proposed silica rule is put into effect, many of our contractors could be put out of business, losing our market share to other wall systems and leaving our employees – our family – without work. We need to continue to promote our industry, so it’s still here for our children’s children.
Will you accept the call to serve? You may feel like a little fish in a big pond, but you too can be a voice for our industry.
Melonie Leslie is office manager and project manager for G & G Enterprises, a masonry company in Phoenix, Ariz., where she has worked for 11 years. Her duties include accounting, estimating, project management, field supervision and everything in between. She is an active member of the Arizona Masonry Contractors Association and Arizona Masonry Guild.