DC Fly In 2019
Each time ABC of Alabama’s staff and members travel to DC seems to be productive, but there was something completely different this year when the association made its annual trip to the nation’s capitol.
“Without a doubt, this year was one of the most effective DC Fly-Ins we’ve had,” said ABC of Alabama President Jay Reed. “At the suggestion of Tim Harrison, we presented our normal position papers of issues impacting our industry, but elected to simply discuss workforce shortages and how that relates to immigration reform. Also, in opening up the meeting, we forwent all introductions and comments from our Alabama delegation and dove straight into the issue of immigration. We’ve learned over time that our elected officials’ amount of time they can spend with us is so short that we wanted to get our point on the table immediately. After Tim Harrison made his opening remarks regarding immigration, we then had a healthy roundtable discussion about how Alabama could lead the nation on the immigration reform discussion. As I mentioned to the elected officials, a 12 billion dollar economic engine like construction has certain needs from them and this year we elected to speak directly on immigration.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. population in 2018 totaled well over 327 million. Of that total population, 60 percent (196.3 million) identified as non-Hispanic white and 18.3 percent (59.8 million) identified as Hispanic. The Hispanic population is the largest minority in the U.S. today, and the second largest demographic group making up the current construction workforce (3.4 million) . In fact, only Mexico has a larger Hispanic population than the U.S. (about 76 million).
Approximately 13.6 percent (44.5 million) of the total U.S. population and one third (19 million) of the Hispanic population is a foreign-born immigrant. There is no official measure to determine precisely what percentage of the immigrant population residing in the U.S. is, but estimates suspect that approximately 11 million immigrants are living in the U.S. illegally. Around 8 million unauthorized immigrants are suspected to be participating in the workforce. This is nearly 1/3 of the nation’s total Hispanic workforce. One million unlawful immigrants are believed to be working in the construction trade alone.
With numbers like these, ABC of Alabama felt it imperative to vocalize the issue of immigration when it comes to its impact on construction.
“Without a doubt this year was different than any other Day on the Hill I’ve attended,” said ABC of Alabama Chairman of the Board Buddy Stewart of Jesco, Inc. “Our staff always does a great job ensuring we schedule meetings with all our elected officials and based on the size of our chapter we traditionally have 100% participation from our delegation. However our approach this year insured we exposed the key issue impacting Alabama contractors, workforce. To change things up a little, we started with opening remarks from the chapter followed by Tim Harrison presenting remarks on immigration and workforce. This set the tone for our elected officials to speak directly to the issue, we had put on the table, in lieu of getting an overall comprehensive report on everything going on in DC. I am convinced, by focusing on one topic, created the best day on the hill we’ve had since its inception.”
Also occurring at the visit was the association’s presentation of Eagle Awards for the congressional delegation’s voting record. “Our Eagle presentations at the DC Fly In is a highlight for our industry and our Congressional Delegation,” said Mark Mattox of Robins & Morton. “We presented every attendee an Eagle Award this year. The Eagle Award is based on the elected officials voting record on issues important to construction. It’s a great have our Alabama delegation’s voting record show what we as an industry need them to do, and that’s support legislation that improves merit shop and our industry.”