Health care, Immigration Top Topics

Dave Meyer is welcoming the challenge as national chairman of the Associated Builders and Contractors.
The Lee:s Summit, Mo. general contractor formally will be elected to the position during the national ABC Conference in Atlanta in November.
He was in Tulsa for the Oklahoma Chapter’s annual awards banquet and praised local chapter members for their participation — more than 500 attended the banquet — and the quality projects that have been completed during the past year.
As 2007 chairman-elect, Meyer has been working in membership, focusing on both retention and attracting new members to ABC.
As chairman, he will be continuing his predecessors’ work to build programs that will affect members nationwide.
‘‘I am proud that ABC membership has been increasing,’’ he said. ABC had a national 3.6 percent membership growth during 2006 and that number hopefully will increase to 5 percent in 2007. Nationally, member retention stood at 85 percent.
Carl Williams, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Chapter, said the state had a 5 percent growth in 2006 and an 86 percent retention rate.
While membership is important, two national issues — health insurance and immigration — are key issues for ABC.
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed two bills that would allow ABC — and other similar organizations — to offer health care programs to members at a reduced rate, Meyer said. No bills have cleared the U.S. Senate where there is intense opposition from health care insurers.
‘‘President George W. Bush has said he will sign the legislation if it reaches his desk,’’ Williams added.
A national law would make it possible to offer consistent comprehensive health care programs in all 50 states, Meyer said. All states now have different health care laws and it is impossible for associations to develop comprehensive plans.
It would mean premium savings of between 15 to 30 percent for member participants.
ABC also would like to see a comprehensive immigration reform bill passed, he said. National numbers indicate that between 11 million to 13 million undocumented workers are in the U.S.
Some people have the attitude that all illegals should be rounded up and deported.
But think about it for a moment, Meyer added. About 11 million people make up 5 percent of the U.S. workforce.
‘‘We want to see an immigration program that eventually would provide earned citizenship,’’ he said.
While Meyer admits he is somewhat apprehensive about taking the helm of the national ABC organization, he also credits Jack Darnall, the current chairman, with keeping him in the loop.
Darnall, from Birmingham, Ala., is a member of the Brassfield and Gorrie Contractors.
While health care and immigration issues are major efforts, the organization also is looking internally — at training programs.
Meyer said he and the ABC leadership will be taking a close look at apprenticeship training that is serving as a deterrent to younger people when they consider careers.
Young workers are rejecting careers in construction because they must work long hours, then spend several evenings each week in training, Evans explained. They have young families and want to spend time with them rather than constantly working.
While different training criteria will be examined, ABC is taking a close look at attracting young people into the construction industry.
High schools focus on the very top students that will be going to college and the second group that almost always is in trouble, he said. ‘‘We need to get to that middle group and show them that construction is a good career.’’
Meyer also is encouraging Oklahoma ABC members to enter their projects in national competition.
Oklahoma members have won national awards consistently since 2000, he said.

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