I recently read an article that quoted one of the great leaders of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), Joe M. Rodgers. He said, “Get into politics or get out of business.” Rodgers was a leader in many aspects of the construction industry. He was also involved in the politics that shaped our industry for many years.
In addition to founding his own construction company, he served on the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Advisory Board, was ambassador to France, served on the boards of five international corporations, and handled the finances of eight presidential and congressional candidates.
This man truly understood the value of being involved in politics. His quote “Get into politics or get out of business” has never been truer than it is today!
Every morning there’s news of a new policy from Capitol Hill or a new bill that has been proposed that will take our hard-earned revenue from us. Whether it’s new taxes, lost revenue from lost jobs, or higher expenses due to expanded employee benefit programs, there are endless ways the government affects our profitability. From the current fight over medical health care reform to the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), policies being conjured up in Congress will directly affect how we do business in the construction industry.
I am certain that most of you reading this article will not even know what the Employee Free Choice Act is, much less how serious an effect it can have on our business. I certainly didn’t until researching this article.
For those of you doing commercial ICF work and work with the government, you may very well be using union labor in the near future.
Unions have switched their focus from private balloting to publicly signed cards. These “card-check campaigns” make it easier for unions to organize, because public balloting lets union sympathizers identify and pressure those who vote no.
Essentially, what it boils down to in layman’s terms, is that the EFCA would take away the employees right to a free election and allow the unions to underwrite a union in your shop whether you want it or not. It also forces binding arbitration with the unions if a contract cannot be agreed to in 90 days. In addition, the contract would be good for two years without any say by the industry or trade shop involved.
We have all seen the effect that this type of agreement has had in the automobile industry with what has happened to the “Big Three” recently.
The purpose for my ranting on this particular issue is simple: It is easy to see how this is one-sided and unfavorable for the construction industry. It is easy to see how it can destroy an entire industry and regional economy. Just ask your colleagues in places like Detroit, Mich.; Dayton, Ohio; and more recently Middle Tennessee where GM had…I repeat had…a huge presence, and what effect organized labor has had on its economy.
This ultimately affects each our businesses.
Know what is going on in your state or county. Don’t take it for granted that someone else will be aware and prevent bad policy from becoming law. Voice your opinion and do what you can to ensure these will not take hold.
Get involved at whatever level you feel comfortable. Perhaps it’s the local county commission or planning commission. If you don’t want to run for an office, at least go to the meetings. Be aware of what is being discussed.
With the recent advent of blogging, there is no reason you cannot make your opinion known. Each representative—whether it is local or in Washington—needs to hear from you. They make policy based upon what you, their constituency, tell them is important. And if they don’t respond to the issues that are important to you and your business, make darn
sure you let them know during the next election cycle.
Boot them out of that “elected” office and replace them with someone whom will listen to your concerns and needs. You must advocate your interest to your leaders in order for them to know your interest. Do not discount the value of a single voice.
Your legislator doesn’t have to be a member of your chosen party. Often times, one or more of your representatives will not share your views on politics. But they are still representatives of your district or state, and they should still be interested
in your views. If not, utilize your freedom to vote.
You may say, “Well, I am just a small ICF contractor and what I have to say will fall on deaf ears.” I am here to tell you, the only time it will fall on deaf ears is if they don’t hear you speak.
It’s important that you develop a rapport with your representatives as well as their staffs. Sometimes it may be difficult to reach them personally, but if you have a relationship with his or her staff you can at least get a message through.
Remember, your elected representatives want to build a relationship with you. Most of them want to know what is going on in their districts, especially when it’s as significant as the construction industry.
If your representative is too busy to meet one-on-one, get a group of your peers together, find out when your representative will be in town next, and schedule a group lunch or dinner.
Give it a try. You will be surprised how easy it is to become acquainted with you representative. If it doesn’t happen immediately, pester them just like you do the contractor down the street when you need work. They will eventually give in and hear your pitch.
Each one of us can advance the ICF industry by becoming politically involved. We currently have a unique opportunity with the push for green initiatives and green technology in everyday society.
More specifically, with the government’s push to certify all facilities under LEED or one of the other energy certifying agencies, there are fantastic opportunities to demonstrate how ICFs can play a vital role in contributing to the overall energy rating of each structure. You can provide your representative with valuable information to take back to Washington. That accurate information can only come from you, the constituent that is in the trenches every day. Get involved today or get left behind!
This Congress has introduced some very serious legislation that will dramatically—negatively—affect the construction industry for years to come. We are living in some very challenging times. Most of our elected representatives are aware of this, and they certainly do not want to be portrayed as negative – especially with midterm elections just around the corner.
There are issues relating to the health care reform. There are issues dealing with the repeal of the Bush Administration tax credits. Then there are energy codes, the tax credits dealing with the energy codes, immigration law, and issues surrounding the status of illegal immigrants. All of these issues will affect how we do business in the near- and long-term future.
Ultimately what the Congress and the Obama Administration chooses to do with regard to each of these issues is unknown, but you can be assured that one way or another, your bottom line will be affected.
You have to play in order to win. I repeat the words of Joe Rodgers: “Get into Politics or Get out of Business!”
Starting next issue, watch for my bi-monthly column on “Business Practices to help you Grow your Business”.