(February 28, 2017) Members of the AWFS Public Policy Committee, along with nearly 40 other individuals from wood products manufacturing trade associations and their member companies, flew to Capitol Hill the week of February 13, calling on over three dozen legislative offices to give voice and bring awareness to issues of concern for our industry. Also participating were the Hardwood Federation, National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), Wood Components Manufacturing Association (WCMA), Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America (WMMA) and Woodworking Machinery Industry Association (WMIA).
While very early in the new administration, it is not too early in a political climate that espouses support of manufacturing to ensure that House and Senate representatives coast to coast, are hearing from our manufacturing sector. A sampling of offices called on by the group at large included Senators McConnell (R-KY), Hassan (D-NH), Harris (D-CA), Scott (R-SC), Kaine (D-VA) and Cole (R-OK), in addition to dozens of House representatives involved with various pertinent legislative committees and whose jurisdiction touches on member companies.
A summation of the issues addressed by the various groups includes: Free and Fair Trade; fair tax policies for small and medium-sized businesses; corporate tax reform; repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA); forest and timber and workforce development/Career Technical Education.
A common theme expressed by staffers in the various offices was Congressional attention being dominated by repeal of ACA and immigration reform, likely pushing tax reform to later in the year. Also less prominent on the immediate agenda are education-related bills. However, support and promotion of U.S. manufacturing and re-authorization of the Perkins Act (which funds Career Technical Education) are bi-partisan issues which were both met with enthusiasm, as were the letters of support that were left behind, signed by a total of twelve wood-related trade associations.
Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH) is circulating the idea to establish a chief manufacturing office at the White House; and several offices expressed interest in the idea of an industry-led briefing presented to the members of the Career Technical Education (CTE) caucuses to express support for CTE education and re-authorization of the Perkins Act, the long-standing and main funding source for CTE education.
Clint Odom, Legislative Director for Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) commented he was excited to take a meeting with the woodworking industry, saying that was a first for him. Chief of Staff for Congressman Lou Correa, in whose region the AWFS headquarters is situated, expressed interest in working together to produce an event involving schools on careers in manufacturing.
Staffers on the Hill recommended that association member companies invite their local representatives to their facilities. The old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” still holds as more legislators need to see firsthand the level of technology in our industry. They need to be reminded of the scope of our industry (the entire chain from forest to product) and of the jobs that await the next generation. Companies might consider partnering with another local business and/or school in creating an event for legislators to attend. It may be easier than you think – and could have unintended consequences such as students interested in jobs or good publicity. To find your representatives, go to www.House.gov or www.Senate.gov.