To highlight the tree care industry and to amplify the industry’s voice in Washington, Urban Tree Service President Ed Hopkins met with some 30 other members of the Tree Care Industry Association’s Voice for Trees Political Action Committee (VFT-PAC) on Capitol Hill.
The TCIA’s mission is simple: “To advance tree care businesses.” One of the ways the organization does that is by working to influence public policy when it comes to the tree care industry. The group lobbies to shape the policies of government organizations such as OSHA and the EPA, and makes contributions to political campaigns via the VFT-PAC.
Ed is very involved in the TCIA and has worked on the organization’s committee for many years. He’s currently a member of the VFT-PAC, which works on national tree care issues by promoting legislation and regulation that affect the green tree care industry. Ed’s membership and efforts put Urban Tree Service at the forefront of the industry, helping to ensure that tree care businesses are recognized and are able to thrive.
The Washington event started with briefing on the issues that VFT-PAC members would bring to their elective officials on a Legislative Day on the Hill the following day. The tree care company owners were also briefed on what they needed to know about the existing and proposed laws and regulations that affect, or could affect, their businesses.
There were three major issues highlighted at the VFT-PAC event:
The TCIA seeks a stronger H-2B visa program so seasonal tree care businesses can use operate and help grow the economy. The issue affects a few of the TCIA members who rely on seasonal workers when there are not enough American workers to fill positions during certain seasons. Updates and advice on immigration legislation, the temporary guest-worker visa programs and the E-verify program were provided by co-chair of the H-2B Workforce Coalition, Brian Crawford, vice president for government affairs for the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
TCIA seeks clear and consistent OSHA rules to improve safety and reduce injuries in the tree care industry, a high-hazard profession. An attorney with Jackson Lewis, Brad Hammock, worked for 10 years as an OSHA attorney, and offered observations “from the inside” on how OSHA works, how the agency perceives the tree care industry and how it judges safety violations.
Hammock also talked about labor-related issues and how vacancies in key appointments are holding up any progress at OSHA.
Invasive Insect Research Funds
TCIA seeks to strengthen Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and U.S. Forest Service work on the introduction and eradication of invasive pests that have entered the country, putting “America’s urban and community forests under siege.” The issue is important to all Americans and the country’s trees.
Sustainable Urban Forest Coalition
TCIA is a member of the Sustainable Urban Forest Coalition, a group of national organizations that work to create a unified urban forest agenda. The coalition supports funding for the Urban and Community Forestry Service program, and legislation to study expensive wildfires burning on federal lands that are occurring with greater frequency. Gerry Gray, founder of Forest Conservation Leadership, talked about SUFC, of which he is co-chair.
One attendee summed up the day for the TCIA Reporter, “In my opinion, our political system is not designed to move fast but usually when it moves, it sticks,” he said. “So what we do is part of the process, without the knowledge of exactly where it’s going to end up. The only absolute or sure thing is if we don’t show up and promote our positions then we have a right to complain if it doesn’t go our way.”
During the rest of the year, TCIA is still visible on Capitol Hill through its lobbying firm, Ulman Public Policy. The firm actively lobbies on behalf of TCIA and brings the industry’s message to regulators and legislators year-round.
And you can bet Ed Hopkins will continue to work to influence Washington policies that affect the tree care industry and its consumers. “I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to help represent our industry,” he said “It was humbling to think that you can make a difference in Washington.”