MCAA - Building Bridges to a Better Future
Among other things, the First Amendment of the Constitution gives us the freedom to associate, freedom of speech and freedom of expression without government interference. These freedoms, which we often take for granted, give us, as Americans, many privileges. They allow us as a trade association to offer opinions about laws, regulations and general government, whether it's at the federal, state or local level. After all, government is to a great degree organized opinion and where there is little or no public opinion, there is likely to be bad government. So it's important establish alliances at the State and Federal level and collaborate with those in your community to promote shared interests and create a favorable business climate.
As MCAA's Director of Government Affairs, I understand how absolutely essential it is to work closely with my colleagues in other trade associations to advance a legislative and regulatory agenda that is beneficial to our members.
Since joining MCAA in July of 2002, I've joined a number of coalitions - groups that plan, strategize and lobby together towards a common goal. One of these is the Association Health Plan (AHP) coalition. It is comprised of more than 150 trade associations representing 12 million employers and 80 million workers nationwide. It is a powerful group whose purpose is to enact legislation which would allow small businesses to band together to provide health insurance to their families and employees. We had no trouble getting the House of Representatives to pass a bill last year; in fact, the House has passed this legislation five times, only to have it languish in the Senate. Once again, the ball is in the Senate's court and while we've got some powerful allies in that chamber on this issue, they can't do our bidding alone. It's now up to the AHP coalition to organize grassroots support from members around the country, encourage them to write their Senators, send editorials to the local paper and, where possible, come to Washington to meet with staff and help them understand how crucial an issue this is for the business community. It's an enormous undertaking, but as they say, there is strength in numbers and I'm proud to be part of a coalition so committed to the cause. We're making great strides and I'm optimistic that an AHP bill will end up on President Bush's desk later this year.
The AHP coalition is just one of many I'm involved in. We are also part of the National Council on Ergonomics through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce - a group which stresses the use of sound science in the development of ergonomics standards. There's also the CASHIN group which meets quarterly to discuss OSHA's regulatory agenda for construction. Since I've been part of the CASHIN group, we've focused on ergonomics, confined spaces in construction, and the draft proposed standard on silica exposure, to name a few.
Coalitions are invaluable in my view. They are a great way to meet people, set priorities and achieve goals you may have never thought possible working on your own. I hope that all of you, as members of MCAA, if you haven't already done so, will form and/or solidify local mason contractor chapters. I know you'll find it time well spent.
About the Author
Marian J. Marshall was the Director of Government Affairs for the Mason Contractors Association of America.