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Highlights of the 2019 CEA National Issues Conference

May 16, 2019

SMACNA Executive CommitteeSMACNA contractors joined forces with other specialty construction groups at this year’s Construction Employers of America (CEA) National Issues Conference, held May 7-9 in Washington, D.C.

The first day of the program featured policy experts on multiemployer pension plans, pharmacy benefit issues, and paid family and sick leave. SMACNA members were then invited to a legislative dinner, where members and chapter executives were recognized for their contributions to SMAC PAC. The evening included a speech by SMACNA President Nathan Dills.

CEA-15 576x600On the second day, legislators shared their views on infrastructure, energy efficiency, procurement, paid leave, and other issues important to the industry. The day opened with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), followed by Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA), Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN), and Rep. Gerry Connelly (D-VA). 

Speaking on infrastructure investment, Rep. Stauber said, "let's get an infrastructure package together that is bold and responsive." He closed his speech noting, "I'm privileged to be here today and work with both sides of the aisle and labor is going to be a huge part of it."

Rep. Connelly noted that “infrastructure does not happen by fairy dust. You have to fund it...if we do not heed the warning of America’s crumbling infrastructure, we are handing our competitiveness over to China. It is a lack of political will to make that investment, an investment that we should have made yesterday.”

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) followed with speeches on energy efficiency and investing in America’s future.  Tonko stated, “we have the incredible opportunity to invest in America’s infrastructure and put our people to work. Roads and bridges are not enough. We have to include broadband and make that system run more efficiently. We also need additional investments in water systems infrastructure.” He closed his talk with a rallying cry, “I still believe most optimistically in the pioneer spirit of this country. As we go forward let us commit to investments that brings us back to a country that “builds” and moves forward.”

Markey focused on the Green New Deal, a bill he introduced in the Senate, and building a climate resistant future. "We're talking about jobs," he said. "The Green New Deal will be the single largest creator of blue collar jobs." 

CEA-16 600x435The final session featured Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) who spoke on lowering the price of prescription drugs and noted that she believes "we will pass a meaningful infrastructure package."

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) discussed paid leave and his commitment to ensuring that our workforce is a focus of the conversation. “I want to stress the importance of guaranteed pay," he said. "The lack of guaranteed pay relief costs a family so much. It is outrageous that a worker should have to choose between a sick family member or themselves and a paycheck.”

The legislative conference is all about advocacy and more than 60 SMACNA members from 20 states took part in more than 100 meetings with their legislators to discuss ramifications of these issues on their businesses, their employees, and the industry.

In the evening, members were invited to an all-association reception, hosted by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), with special guest Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA). Stivers welcomed members, noting that "the economy is doing pretty well but our infrastructure needs a boost."

Stan Kolbe, SMACNA's Director of Legislative and Political Affairs, with Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts.The final day focused on apprenticeship and labor with speakers Anirban Basu, chairman and CEO of the Sage Policy Group. Nicholas C. Geale, chief of staff to the secretary, U.S. Department of Labor, and Reps. Rodney Davis (R-IL), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), and John Katko (R-NY).