Last month at the RCS Influencers breakfast meeting at the International Roofing Expo, the topic of immigration came up. After the breakfast I started asking people within my company their thoughts on this topic. I had the liveliest discussion with Doug Duncan. President of our Nations Roof Illinois office. Doug chose to take the topic to his crews – the ones who are most affected by this issue. Here’s what he had to say after speaking with them.
What is your ideal outcome in this immigration debate? I believe the ideal outcome would be for dreamers and immigrants who can contribute to the overall good of the country, to have a better, more efficient path to residency or citizenship. As we all know by now, our industry is facing a near crisis with skilled labor shortages. I’m confident our government does not understand the makeup of our workforce. My company’s labor force consists of 95% Hispanic employees. All of these employees are currently legal to work in this county. Recently, we started a conversation with our employees and asked how THEY feel regarding current and possible changes to the immigration laws. Most of them are worried because their wives are scared, and their cousins, aunts, and uncles are nervous. These people have a right to be here through the DACA program, however some of them and their family members are dreamers and they are scared. I even have some employees who refuse to travel out of the state because their wives are nervous of deportation. Our people see news clips of people being deported and they become scared for their dreamer family members. There is a lack of trust in our administration and this distrust is negatively affecting our workforce.
What would be best for your business? The best outcome would be for our government to understand who our skilled workforce is, and what would happen if they were gone. I have been involved in the roofing industry for 31 years. When I first started working for my father’s roofing company, the workforce was probably 50/50 (mostly non -skilled) Hispanics vs. (skilled) non-Hispanic. I believe that number is probably closer to 90/10 Hispanic vs non-Hispanic now. Our experienced people are now Hispanics. Just think for a second what would happen and how long it would take if these skilled people were suddenly gone. How long would it take to train a new workforce? Is there a new workforce available? I think it would take another 30 years. Can our industry or country wait 30 years for a new workforce? Please participate in Roofing Day in Washington D.C. Bring one or two of your skilled Hispanic workers. Let our government see who our workforce is, let them hear the voice of our employees and let them know they are needed to continue to grow this country.
Doug Duncan is president of Nations Roof, Illinois, a graduate of NRCA FEI 17, and EMI 3 programs, he is a three-year board director for NRCA, OSHA 500 and 501 and has worked in the roofing industry for 30 years.