Wade Shepherd, Rick Olson, Congressman Mike Johnson, TJ Curtis, Craig Brightup
April 5-7, 2022 – Washington, DC – the Tile Roofing Industry Alliance (TRI Alliance) Government Relations Committee held a fly-in to Washington, DC to meet with key U.S. House and Senate members to raise attention to the serious issues facing the roofing industry. Under the leadership of our TRIA Washington DC lobbyist, Craig Brightup (pictured below, left), we held meetings over three days while the House and Senate were in session.
As part of those meetings, the TRI Alliance attended a Washington Industrial Roundtable lunch where we interacted with Congressmen Fred Keller (R-PA) and Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI), who are on the Education and Labor Committee, to solicit support for greater awareness of the construction trades and more funding for Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) State Grants which have not increased since 2004.
Unfortunately, during the past decade, appropriations for CTE have not kept pace with growing demand in a rapidly changing economy, and funding for Perkins State Grants has not kept pace with inflation. Further, the amount of federal funding dedicated to CTE pales in comparison to funding for attendance at four-year colleges even though roughly 40% of students enrolled in these institutions fail to obtain a degree, according to educationdata.org.
The labor shortage has opened the door for industry associations like the TRI Alliance to increase training. Making the construction trades a positive path for those not able or wanting to pursue a four year higher-education path is vital to the building and roofing industry. In conjunction with more Perkins Act funding, the TRI Industry Alliance also supports efforts in Congress to reform the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to ensure more job creators can take advantage of its benefits.
Our visit coincided with NRCA’s Roofing Day in DC, where we shared an emphasis on a second issue, the important topic of Immigration Reform that Meets Workforce Needs in 2022. It’s estimated that the roofing industry is 8,000 workers short of meeting today’s roofing demands, and this lack of workers is fueling increased housing costs that moves us further away from affordable housing. We were able to sit down with Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS), who’s on the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, to discuss how we might provide statistical information when immigration and workforce needs start moving in the legislative process. (pictured right: The TRI Alliance Fly-In Group outside the Senate Dining Room, U.S. Capitol Bldg.)
Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act
The roofing industry supports the establishment of a new construction-specific visa program that meets the workforce needs of employers in the 21st century. Any new visa system should be governed by market forces and provide more visas in times of economic strength and fewer during downturns. It should protect workers, be easy for employers to use, and enable job creators to obtain the workers needed to sustain and grow their businesses. Legislation to achieve these goals, the Workforce for an Expanding Economy Act (H.R. 4288), has been introduced in recent Congresses and the roofing industry continues to support this important reform.
The roofing industry also knows the importance of the DACA program for its workforce. Thus, the TRI Industry Alliance fly-in added a DACA participant to explain the process and challenges one faces firsthand and the need to fix the temporary nature of DACA work permits through legislative means.
In addition, the TRI Industry Alliance communicated support for legislation to allow qualified individuals who have been working legally under the Temporary Protected Status/Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs to adjust to permanent resident status. We need to support those lawfully contributing to the economy with green cards and the potential opportunity to apply for citizenship Many such individuals to seek citizenship. A significant number of TPS/DACA individuals now work in the roofing industry and make invaluable contributions to their communities. Allowing these hard-working individuals to obtain permanent status will enable them to continue supporting their communities and strengthen our economy.
Congressman Mike Johnson (R-LA), Vice Chair, House Republican Conference dined with us for breakfast on the last day of our fly-in where he discussed his work to identify the top 10 issues Republicans will address should they win the midterm elections. The TRI Alliance looks to be a voice at the table to provide valuable information to policymakers crafting new programs that will grow the roofing and building industry. (pictured right: Congressman Mike Johnson, TRI President Rick Olson)
Our final meeting was with our partner in coalition activities, the National Association of Home Builders, with Rob Matuga, Assistant Vice President for Labor, Safety & Health, and Felicia Watson, Senior Counsel for NAHB. A number of issues were discussed pertaining to our very effective Construction Industry Safety Coalition.
On behalf of the TRI Alliance, we wish to thank John Campbell, Tyler Allwood, and Jose Escobar with Eagle Roofing Products; Wade Shepherd with Westlake Royal Roofing Solutions and T.J Curtis with Metric Roofing in Arizona for committing the time to help be an advocate for our tile roofing industry.
As the TRI Alliance, we continue to be a voice in Washington to emphasize the needs of our industry. To join our team or to learn more about our efforts, please email TRI President Rick Olson, Rolson@tileroofing.org.