2019 MCAA Fly-In: The Opportunity to Build in Washington, D.C. “Mason Contractor’s Assemble”
Stephen A. Borg
By now you have hopefully read numerous articles in this space describing how important the annual Mason Contractors Association of America Legislative Conference or “Fly-In” is and what a vital time it is to have our voices heard on Capitol Hill. As many of our members continue to search for a qualified, willing workforce and continue to struggle with stressful regulations coming out of federal agencies. This year was no different, and we had a great time ensuring Members of Congress heard about what issues were impacting the masonry industry in their home states and districts.
We had over 30 MCAA Members (including numerous new faces), from 13 different states, conduct over 120 meetings on Capitol Hill this year. Issues ranged from school construction to workforce development, to potential new regulations coming out of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but our top priority was asking for support of H.R. 1740, the Workforce for An Expanding Economy Act. H.R. 1740 was introduced by Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) and would have a huge impact on our members who are struggling to find employees or who are turning down work opportunities due to a lack of workforce.
MCAA remains committed to standing with Congress and the Administration as they craft programs to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, boost our economy, and expand the middle class throughout every region of America. With that being said, our members also remain concerned that due to numerous factors, the masonry industry, and construction industry as a whole, faces an environment where there are currently very few available, qualified employees. According to the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) and its program “Build Your Future” there will be at a minimum 500,000 jobs that will be open throughout the United States in the masonry/bricklaying field alone in the next three years.
MCAA supports an approach that creates a temporary guest worker program that meets the demand for labor and allows the billions of dollars invested in the economy through a potential infrastructure package to be utilized in a timely and successful manner. As evidenced by employment data, the construction industry as a whole faces a growing problem of a shortage of skilled labor and the problem will only continue to worsen without action. MCAA believes this insufficiency can be addressed by allowing foreign workers to fill the void and as such we pushed hard for Members of Congress to sign on as co-sponsors of H.R. 1740.
If signed into law, the Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act would create a market-driven immigration visa program targeted to workers in occupations that do not require a college degree to do year-round, non-farm work. The bill creates a two-track system in which employers and potential immigrant laborers are both required to receive a permit to work in the U.S. The bill will require an employer to apply to the federal government for an approval to hire an H-2D worker and does not allow a worker to enter the U.S. until they have been affirmatively hired by an employer who has received approval from the government to hire for that position.
We have already been receiving great feedback on our efforts to highlight this bill and the need for a guest-worker program and are hopeful that H.R. 1740 will continue to gain traction as the year progresses. But our work is not finished yet.
While we had a great time hitting the halls of Capitol Hill over a 2-day stretch, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to build relationships and make our voices heard with Members of Congress. For those of you who joined us in Washington, D.C. don’t forget to invite your Members of Congress out to a jobsite to see firsthand what a masonry jobsite entails and continue your conversations from your DC meetings. For those of you who we were unable to join us, I hope you will take the time to contact your Member of Congress’ offices back home and start a dialogue on what issues are impacting your business and plan to join us next May 2020 for the Legislative Conference. Remember, we are only as strong as our collective voice and with over 100 new Members of Congress we need our voice to be loud and clear.