By Michael Adelizzi, ASA Executive Vice President

It’s Monday morning and you are looking forward to a good week ahead when six business agents from the union walk into your office. They lay signature cards from 50% of your employees on the table and promptly inform you that your company is organized. No election, no chance to talk to your employees. Instead, you have 90 days to negotiate with them and if you don’t come to an agreement, the NLRB will come in and settle the issue.   

It doesn’t matter that  your employees signed the union organizing cards when the same six business agents came to their homes late at night and asked them to sign up for the union. And it doesn’t matter that your employees really don’t want to be union…it’s too late, you are organized. No taking back the signatures, no changing their minds. It’s over and you have lost control of your company.

What would you do? What will this cost your company? Sound far fetched? Not if the unions have their way.  

The Employee Free Choice Act, aka the “Card Check” bill, is one of organized labor’s top legislative agenda items. It is designed to make it easy for unions to organize your employees. Opposing Card Check is just one of 13 key issues where the American Supply Association has focused its advocacy efforts.   Over the past few years, issues that could have negatively impacted the PHCP and PVF industry such as Card Check, LIFO Repeal, Cap and Trade, and tax reform remained relatively dormant. However, change in control of the White House and Congress breathed new life into many of these issues. Add to that the onslaught of new regulations from agencies such as EPA and DOE and you have a recipe for potential disaster to an industry like ours where profit margins are razor thin.   

So you operate your business for decades, following all the rules that the IRS has set up. You use the LIFO accounting method and actually have established several million in LIFO reserves over the years when the government decides that if they eliminate the deduction for LIFO, they can get billions of new revenue. You now owe the federal government millions in new taxes because they switched the rules, and you don't have the money to pay the new tax bill...oh, and the banks aren't loaning any money these days. You are faced with the very real possibility that you will have to shut the doors of your business.   

When you consider these scenarios and that only two votes could turn them into real-life situations, somehow that small fee for ASA membership dues doesn't seem so much like a luxury and becomes much more a necessity.   

Serious issues are being added to the table almost on a daily basis and have become so complex and large that no one association has the ability to kill or pass legislation all on its own. Even mega-organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AARP and the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW) act in partnership with other organizations and trade groups to impact legislation and regulation. “Today, issues in Washington are passed or defeated by building coalitions of like-minded organizations to advance a distributor or manufacturer agenda," said Joe Poehling, CEO of First Supply and ASA’s chairman of the board.    

Currently, ASA’s ability to engage these issues is hampered by a cost prohibitive “pay-as-you-go” effort, which has resulted in lobby invoices exceeding the association’s budget by over 300 percent. In response, the Executive Committee has made an effective and fiscally-responsible decision to authorize soliciting the funds to hire a full-time staff lobbyist. "ASA needs to become a full-time engaged partner to not only help pass their agenda but to make sure that our plumbing, heating and PVF agenda is represented and advanced,” continues Poehling. “Important legislation such as the ASA sponsored W.A.T.E.R legislation never would have been introduced if we left it up to someone else.  If you need proof on whether it works or not, look at all of the incentives available for windows and doors, but nothing to date for water conservation products, although 38 states need to place water restriction on their constituents.”  

What ASA is facing is a choice between being a full-time effective participant in coalitions such as LIFO Reform Coalition, Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (Card Check), Tax Relief Coalition, Family Business Estate Tax Coalition, Coalition Against Copper Theft and Coalition for Affordable American Energy or blowing our budget. Every meeting of each coalition costs ASA’s budget nearly $1,000 to utilize the services of a lobby firm. With coalitions meeting on a monthly - sometimes weekly - basis and ASA engaged in nearly 20 different coalitions, you can see how the move to a full time staff person working 2,000 hours a year makes sense to protect the industry and ASA’s budget.  

ASA serves as an educator and information envoy to help legislators and the administration make informed and logical decisions. The issues are demanding us to step up full time.  “Some of ASA’s leaders have asked if we should just give money to another organization, such as NAW, to lobby for us instead of hiring a full time staff person,” said Dennis Good, CEO of M. Cooper Supply and chairman of ASA’s Government Affairs Committee. “There are two reasons that isn’t the best option. First, the NAW staff alone can’t possibly meet with thousands of government elected officials, staff and regulators.  Second, who will ensure that the PHCP and PVF industry’s interests are promoted? ASAisthe voice of our industry. Politics is a team sport and we need a player in the starting lineup.”  

Our industry is deserving of more than piecemeal representation in Washington.  The move to raise funds to absorb expenses associated with promoting the association’s priorities is not unprecedented.  Even in the face of doubters, ASA had the vision to establish a $10 million dollar endowment fund for industry education. Today, in the face of much of the same doubt, ASA is focusing its leadership toward establishing a permanent presence in Washington. This decision will have an immeasurable impact on future legislation, regulation, and - more importantly - the industry.   

To help support ASA’s effort to hire a full time government affairs effort, contact the ASA national office at 312.464.0090