A time to share

"You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips."
—Oliver Goldsmith

During my visits with roofing contractors throughout the U.S., I frequently am asked questions about my experience in Congress. I don't mind—it's natural for others to be curious about it. Usually, the discussion centers around dysfunction (which is real and, unfortunately, getting worse) and why it's so difficult for Congress to get things done.

Eventually, the questions begin to be about the roofing industry and how we can be more effective in having members of Congress hear us. In many respects, Congress does hear us. They certainly hear from us. NRCA has four staff members in Washington, D.C., working on roofing-related issues every day. They work hard on your behalf as they inform policymakers about matters that affect you and your business. Whether it be regulations, taxation or immigration policy, NRCA is weighing in. Yet in some ways our staff is handicapped.

When I was in Congress and industry lobbyists would come to talk to me, I listened as best I could. However, when they came to my office with five or 10 folks from my district, I really took notice. Instead of just hearing from a D.C. insider, I was hearing from constituents. More important, I was seeing them. The roofing industry has been heard from but rarely seen on Capitol Hill. Sure, some of you take involvement seriously and communicate regularly with your representatives. However, way too many don't. And then we wonder why our issues are not resolved or, worse yet, things go the other way!

We don't have to accept this result when there are strategies we can employ to change it. We can become more visible. Roofing contractors and, in many respects, the entire roofing industry, are mostly invisible to some members of Congress, and as a result, congressional members sometimes view roofing contractors negatively.

For example, I heard members of Congress say roofing contractors only were interested in "cheap and illegal labor." Or "if you only paid a living wage you would have all the workers you need." You and I know that's nonsense, but that's what many believe. So how do we change this?

Here are some specific strategies you can use:

  • You can invite a senator or representative to your place of business. To ensure a successful visit, give them plenty of time to respond to the invitation, and try to accommodate their schedule. In addition, invite them to participate in something. They want to meet your employees. Let them read a safety talk or attend a staff meeting—whatever brings the most people into the room. Also, extend the invitation early in 2018. It's an election year, and every Congress member wants to be in front of voters.
  • You can get involved with NRCA's political action committee, ROOFPAC. Elected officials need to raise a lot of money to get their messages out. Your contributions to ROOFPAC help us put our industry in front of them.
  • You can participate in campaign-related events in your hometown. Relationships matter in politics just like they do in any other place.
  • You can become engaged through our grassroots website, roofingadvocacy.nrca.net. It will help keep you informed and also facilitate your engagement.
  • You can show up in Washington, D.C. Whenever constituents were concerned enough about an issue that they came to see me in my D.C. office, I really listened. My district was 900 miles from D.C., and if someone cared enough about an issue to take time away from work and carry the expense of the travel, I knew it was important. Nothing moved me more.

To help facilitate such interactions, NRCA is partnering with its affiliated associations to lead an industrywide effort to bring stakeholders to Washington D.C. If only 10 percent of Professional Roofing readers show up, it will result in thousands of engaged roofing professionals.

The special fly-in event will take place March 6-7, 2018. NRCA's Government Relations Committee is hard at work identifying the top three issues the industry is facing, and we hope to have you deliver the message. Staff also is hard at work identifying team captains in every state. Each captain will seek to find at least 20 people from their state to participate. If you are interested in being a team captain, contact NRCA's Washington, D.C., office at (800) 338-5765. Together, we can all make a difference. Can we count on you?

Reid Ribble is NRCA's CEO.


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