Unable to visit Washington, D.C. due to health and safety concerns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of roofing industry stakeholders from around the country made the case for legislative priorities from their screens during Roofing Day 2021.
The virtual experience was just the latest adjustment the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), its members and supporters of the industry made during a difficult year since the pandemic hit last spring and forced the cancellation of the in-person fly-in event in 2020.
“As it has done since 2018, NRCA partnered with a wide coalition of roofing industry stakeholders in conducting Roofing Day in D.C. 2021," said NRCA CEO Reid Ribble. “Although this event was held virtually, more than 300 participants communicated the issues most important to all of us directly to members of Congress and congressional staff.”
Delegations divided by state joined several meetings with legislators and key congressional staffers to push an agenda centered around:
- Continued support for funding Perkins Career and Technical Education State Grants that will help the industry address critical workforce needs;
- Including roofs in the discussion for any legislation that calls for improvements to America’s aging infrastructure;
- Immigration reform that meets the industry’s workforce needs.
"When I think about the roofing industry, we service roofing contractors who are out doing the work, and those are small businesses, a lot of times family-run, and anywhere from supporting 10 families to 1,000 families," said Jason Dark, vice president of sales at Duro-Last, during a meeting with staff members of U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). "There's a lot of people that have great careers, and their livelihood comes from the roofing industry, and that's why we're looking for support."
U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) said all three topics were critical to the economic future of not just Michigan, but the country, as the nation transitions to the priorities of a new presidential administration and slowly emerges from the clutches of COVID-19. He said he supports “beefing up” Perkins grant funding as a member of the House’s Education and Labor Committee, and shared his family’s own immigration story to provide some context for immigration reform.
Levin’s great-grandmother emigrated to the U.S. from Europe in the 1890s at age 15 — by herself, with very little money. She would eventually marry and open a general store in a then-rural community outside Detroit, which helped establish a family legacy of success and public service. Levin’s father, Sander Levin, represented Michigan in Congress for nearly four decades before retiring in 2019, and his uncle, Carl Levin, served Michigan for six terms in the U.S. Senate before retiring in 2015.
Though acknowledging immigration is a complicated issue, Levin said he’s entrenched in his support for the Deferred Action Citizenship Act (DACA), and hopes he can have partners from the other side of the aisle to support a solution to a topic that should reach beyond party politics.
“I know your industry can’t survive without immigration labor,” he said frankly to a delegation of Roofing Day attendees. “I’m 100% for pursuing immigration reform to allow people living here, working here, and paying taxes here for years a path to citizenship.”
U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said he hoped to make real progress on immigration during this congressional term, and that it was unlikely to see the U.S. deport millions of undocumented residents. However, any reasonable compromise should assure that Congress doesn’t "re-magnetize" the border and attract people to come quickly in an attempt to receive amnesty.
“There are a lot of people interested in having a conversation about compromise, but one of the biggest problems we run into is the that there are so many topics that fit under the heading of immigration,” Sasse explained while visiting virtually with attendees a day before the advocacy tours. “It’s a red-hot issue that makes it difficult for people to disentangle."
Knowing his audience, Sasse made a pitch for his approach to crafting comprehensive laws with staying power.
“In my head I have the image of a roofer with all your tools needing to make sure you’re on both sides of the eave of the roof,” he said. “Because if you’re just fighting on one side of the roof, you have a bunch of stuff that can get your center of gravity off.”
The virtual experience was just a starting point, and already had participants looking forward to next year's in-person event scheduled for April 5-6, 2022, according to organizers.
“Roofing Day in D.C. has become a hallmark event for the roofing industry and continues to put wins on the board for our members,” Ribble said. “We look forward to continued interaction with legislators throughout the year as we build long-lasting relationships with them.”
To learn more about the legislation and actions the NRCA is advocating for, visit the NRCA's website.