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Shining a light on the dark side of the labor shortage sponsored by IB Roof Systems - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Shining a light on the dark side of the labor shortage sponsored by IB Roof Systems - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT
January 10, 2024 at 12:00 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with McKay Daniels from NRCA, Trent Cotney from Adams and Reese and Jason Stanley from IB Roof Systems. You can read the interview below listen to the podcast or watch the video.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Good morning, everyone. My name is Heidi Ellsworth, and this is Coffee Conversations from RoofersCoffeeShop. I am so thrilled to have you here this morning for this very, very important conversation. We are going to be talking about the dark side of the labor shortage, and there is a lot of dark out there that we as an industry need to address.

So we have brought together experts, experts in the field of roofing to talk about what is happening with the labor shortage and what that has done with immigration, with child labor, with safety. This is going to be that conversation that really brings a lot to light and talks about how we as an industry can come together to really make things right and to continue to stay on the right side of our employees, our labor, our skilled talent out there to make sure that they are getting home safe every single night.

So before we get started, let's go ahead with a little bit of housekeeping. As everyone knows, this is being recorded and will be available within 24 hours on demand on RoofersCoffeeShop under Coffee Conversations. We also have our chat open. This is not a one-way presentation. This is a conversation that we would like to have all of you as a part of.

So let's start out with, if you can, let us know where you're from, who you are and what kind of company that you have. And then, throughout the conversation, I will be reading your comments. I will be asking your questions, and this is a true conversation to really get to understanding what is happening out there overall. So thank you again so much for being here. Let's start with some introductions.

Oh, and I'm sorry. First of all, I need to say a huge thank you to IB Roof Systems for sponsoring this coffee conversation. Talk about somebody, a company that is on the forefront. We're going to meet Jason Stanley here in just a minute, but he has led this company to really be right there talking about what is happening with our sub crews, what is happening with immigration, a huge part of The Roofing Alliance and National Roofing Contract Association. So IB Roof Systems, thank you for everything you do, and thank you for being here today. Yes.

Jason Stanley: Thank you [inaudible 00:02:27].

Heidi J Ellsworth: Okay, so let's start with that introduction. Jason, first of all, thank you again and you are just an inspiration. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about IB.

Jason Stanley: Jason Stanley. I'm the CEO of IB Roof Systems. Been in the industry my entire life and certainly honored to be here. I'm also the founder of Labor Central platform that connects roofing contractors with subcontract labor. And let me tell you, Heidi, this is a topic that has become near and dear to my heart as I've gotten deep in the weeds in subcontract labor. There certainly is a dark side to the labor industry. I refer to these people oftentimes in the shadows of our industry, and I'm happy that we're having this conversation so that we can improve the lives of those people that help and run much of our industry today.

Heidi J Ellsworth: I agree, Jason. This is a long overdue and I'm so happy that we're having this conversation that you are a leader in helping bringing this out because we can always improve roofing respect overall. So, okay. I also would love to introduce Trent Cotney, a return favorite. Trent, welcome, and can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your company?

Trent Cotney: Heidi, always a pleasure to be here. I am a partner and construction team leader at Adams and Reese. They're a national law firm. Also the pleasure of serving as NRCA general counsel and general counsel for a variety of other national and regional roofing associations. And we represent roofing contractors and others in the industry, coast to coast.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Excellent. Thank you for being back here, Trent. And thank you for all the ... You are constantly writing articles on this. You have so much information out there. In fact, I was doing some research and finding articles that I didn't even know you had. So thank you for all you do and helping to keep us aware and on the right side.

Trent Cotney: Okay.

Heidi J Ellsworth: And finally, definitely not least, McKay Daniels, the CEO of NRCA. McKay, thank you so much for being here today. Can you introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about NRCA?

McKay Daniels: Sure thing. Great to be with you, Heidi. Appreciate the opportunity to visit. McKay Daniels, been with NRCA for about six years now in the CEO role, about a year and a half. And NRCA is a voice of the contractor community across the nation. We have roughly 3,600 company members ranging from large shops to small shops and everything in between. And a mission of ours is to make sure that every person on the roof comes home safely at night, like you touched on earlier. And so, this is a good conversation to be having and a helpful spotlight to be shining.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah. So important. So for everyone out there, we're taking the PowerPoint down today and we're going to just have these gentlemen on screen so that we can have this conversation. Please remember, let us know what you think, putting your information in the chat. But we are going to start out with a state of industry around immigration because we had a lot of talks before this. There's a lot of research out there, but a lot of what's happening right now is around immigration and bad players taking advantage of migrants and also the whole combination of everything. So I'm going to stop and I'm going to let McKay lead us off because McKay, ROOFPAC, and everything that NRCA does in Washington, D.C. You and the team overall has been working on immigration for years. So tell us a little bit, where are we at?

McKay Daniels: Yeah, not just years, but decades, Heidi. And this topic is close to my heart in my past life, being in government and politics. I remember I was working in the US Senate the last time that serious comprehensive immigration reform came up. And that was 24 years ago roughly.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Jeez!

McKay Daniels: And NRCA has been engaged on this topic for over 20 years. The association's a founding member of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition that formed in 1999, multiple chairmen’s of the board and presidents of NRCA have testified before Congress. One was just past president just a few years ago, talking about the importance of this issue and having roofing's voice be heard in that conversation, which is vitally important.

But the state of the immigration situation within the industry is simple, that we need more workers. We're still experiencing record low unemployment. Unemployment rate in the construction industry right now is lower than pre-pandemic. Right now, we're lower than 2018, lower than 2019.

We need workers not just in roofing, but across the construction and many other sectors. Unfortunately, Congress is, and well, I don't even want to say Congress. Politicians because it's both. It's bipartisan and bicameral. Folks that say, "Bipartisanship is dead in Washington, D.C.," there is bipartisan unity on doing nothing on immigration, which is just offensive. It's bipartisanship in the wrong direction.

And so, presidents of both parties, Congress is controlled by both parties for years after years, have talked about this issue, demagogued this issue, used it for political expediency and advantage, but yet let the problem fester and, in fact, grow worse. And that's the most frustrating part of this. There's that 1970s song, what is it? Stealers Wheel, the "Stuck in the Middle"?

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah.
McKay Daniels: This is a clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. And here we are stuck in the middle as a collective industry and nation asking for help on this issue.

And the dark side, the shadows that Jason touched about, talked on stem directly from this. The people coming to this country, the federal government allows them to enter the country, allows them to migrate 1,500 miles away from a border and then says, "But you can't work. Come on in, stay, but you can't work." What is a politician expecting to happen? And that's a very, very frustrating situation. It's like Captain Renault in Casablanca that's shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in this establishment right when he gets handed his winnings. That's the way politicians these days are treating it. And it's doing a disservice not just to, well, first and foremost, to the immigrants that are coming to this country and seeking a better life for themselves and their families, but then doing a disservice to the economy, the current citizens here. Pick a box. It's going the wrong direction.

And I'm sorry for the rant. I will contain myself for the rest of the time, but government and immigration doesn't mix well right now with me.

Heidi J Ellsworth: So, McKay, please do not stop ranting. This is what this is all about and we're going to have people making comments and joining in on that. And so, I want to take this to Trent. Trent as a lobbyist, as the general counsel for NRCA, you've been working on this on the immigration issue, too. Tell us kind of what you're seeing.

Trent Cotney: Yeah, so I want to pause for a second and kind of go back to what McKay and NRCA are doing because McKay is naturally pretty humble, but they are really out in the forefront leading the charge for immigration reform. And also we've got to mention what NRCA's lobbying team in D.C. is doing. For those listeners that have not gone to Roofing Day in the past, correct me if I'm wrong, believe it's in April of this year, highly recommend that you attend. Immigration is usually always a topic. I anticipate it'll be a topic again this year.

McKay Daniels: It is.

Trent Cotney: And it's incredibly important that our voice is heard. NRCA's lobbyists are absolutely top-notch. Kudos to everybody on that team. They are really working wonders. And if it wasn't for NRCA and its leadership, our voice wouldn't really be heard in this area. So I think that's the most important thing.

One of the things that I would echo that McKay stated is that you're seeing the development of a black market and labor primarily because there's lack of regulation. Now, as a lawyer that represents contractors, usually I'm against any type of government regulation. This is an area where we could actually benefit from that. We need the workers. These workers aren't replacing jobs for Americans that are here, they are needed because we just simply do not have enough skilled labor. So we have to find a way to legally bring these workers in, have them be taxpayers, have them be part of our country, but do it in a way that respects both sides of the aisle. And I think that's a very difficult, highly charged political task. And that's why I feel very blessed and fortunate that NRCA is kind of leading a charge on that.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah, I mean, like you said, for decades. I've been to all of the Roofing Days, and that's what we talk about every single time.

And Jason, you are leading, I mean you and I both are there on Roofing Day, we're talking about it from our states, but you are also seeing this through your involvement with Labor Central and just what is happening. So talk about that a little bit, both the immigration, what we're doing in D.C, but also what you're seeing with these families that are not able to get work legally.

Jason Stanley: So I find it ironic today that roofing contractors say, "I can't find enough labor," but if you go to the labor crews, they can't find work. So the whole intent of creating Labor Central was to simply connect, create a database, if you will, to connect roofing contractors with roofing crews. But as you dig into this and unpack this issue, wow, this is huge. It's not a small percentage that are leveraging subcontract labor.

I think Trent Cotney talked about it yesterday while he was here in Texas. It's somewhere north of 80% for steep slope roofing, and it's likely moved past 50%, even commercial low slope roofing. So this isn't a small part of the industry. This is a large segment of the industry. And because of the challenges that have been created by our politicians with these people coming across that there is no way for them to legally work.

So how does the process work today? Well, a contractor hires a legal subcontract labor crew who then hires people down below him. So there's a veil that's created there, but you have to know what's going on with that crew just because there is this legal guy that you've hired that is the boss or foreman for that crew. That is your project, and you have to be involved. And what I'm seeing in our industry today is once they hire that guy, they're letting go of the project. They don't know who's on the job, they don't know whether they're following safety protocol and they feel as if there's this veil.

But Trent will tell you, if you don't have documents in place and you've not properly documented, you open yourself up to a whole lot of liability and expose yourself. We saw in this article that came out that there are children on roofs that certainly don't belong there. And there are people doing a huge disservice to this industry by leveraging children and putting them in unsafe conditions that shouldn't exist.

So the 2.0 of Labor Central is to disseminate information, training collateral, safety collateral to try and improve these people because they don't attend the IRE, they don't belong to the NRCA, and they're truly in the shadows of this industry. So how can we shine a light on them? How can we disseminate good information, how can we train our contractors to have good agreements with their subcontractors, and how can we support them without getting in trouble? It's a real challenge.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Well, and Jason, I mean just so for everyone out there listening, what you're referring to is a recent article out of The New York Times about child labor, and it's actually a series where other industries also manufacturing, hospitality also had articles on child labor. And it is, again, because we do not have the regulations, as Trenton said, we do not have the oversight that is protecting these crews.

And I think when we talk about this and we talk about sub crews and the growth, I mean, the huge growth of sub crews. I know at the NRCA meetings, this has been a hot topic. And McKay I think we need to talk about as an industry, and Jason, this is exactly to what you're saying. As an industry, how are we making sure that sub crews have safety or no child labor, and really how are we helping to bring them into the professionalism?

And I want to say, first of all, there are a lot of sub crews that are amazing, that do amazing work, use full safety, are following all the laws, but there is this shadow that we're seeing. And as an industry, do we know who's on the roof? And are we participating in that? McKay, I'd love your thoughts.

McKay Daniels: Yeah, Jason, you stated it very eloquently with there's that veil, right? There's this barrier between perhaps certainly the building owner and those who are doing the work as well as the contractor and perhaps those that are doing the work. And that barrier creates a whole host of issues.

And to your question, Heidi, I mean, it's not just ... It's quality, it's safety. If you have a sub crew that the law and the contract says is responsible for everything, then what position does that put the contractor in? And we've noticed both anecdotally as well as in survey data, that this is starting to bubble up through technical installation quality, health and safety parameters. There was a large survey done of contractors and ask, "Hey, what's the biggest challenge that's facing your workers health and safety-wise? What's the biggest health issue/safety issue that's facing you?" 83% said inexperienced labor was their big issue. 27% cited specifically poor subcontractor labor safety performance whereas only 6% said, "I can't find any good safety training or education materials out there."

So the information is available, but it's not getting to those that need it most. It's not getting to those that are actually doing the work. And a growing indication is it's because of that veil, if you will. It stops at that border. If Ellsworth Roofing has a rain day, you're working with your employees, you're doing toolbox talks, you are training them not just on ladder safety and fall protection, but also technical skills and installation practices. If Ellsworth Roofing has no employees, what does that mean for those people that are now doing the work? And that's the dynamic that NRCA is working quickly to try and address.

Our leadership this past summer created a task force to focus on this issue of trying to produce materials largely in Spanish, targeted toward very, very small contractors, which you could argue is a sub crew these days, or a subcontracting firm as well as perhaps installers and field workers themselves in their native language, in a practical, easy to obtain, easy to interact with format so that we can try to puncture that veil. If the contractor can't or isn't going to, we as an industry should try and have an obligation, again, because no family wants to have that phone call come at the end of the day, regardless of tax status, immigration status, what have you. We as an industry, as a society, as fellow humans should do everything we can to make sure that everybody that gets up on a roof gets down from that roof safely.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah. Jason, I can see you.

Jason Stanley: Yeah. McKay, you've touched on a critical point. The NRCA has done an incredible job at creating PROCertification. There's a lot of people that know about it in the bigger companies, King of Texas or KPost or Empire, Supreme, they bring people and even Sun Commercial have had people come to our facility, become trained, but these guys are already trained. They're already in programs of doing those toolbox talks. How do we take those certification as it is today, a wonderful program that has a huge front end element of safety, both that you have to take in the video portion and then you have to demonstrate in the practical portion, how do we disseminate that down to crews? How do we get the people that are on these subcontract crews to get a card that says, "I'm PROCertified"? Because if they have a card, they not only have had to pass some sort of safety exam, watch some videos, they've also had to demonstrate at least a minimum level of safety.

McKay Daniels: Right. It's not just a knowledge-based test, it's a performance-based certification. And just this past November at our committee meetings, our PROCertification committee spent a decent amount of time and the staff has been working on it for months prior on trying to crack that nut as well of making certification available to an individual, not just a large company, not just the big guys, if you will. And they've developed a licensing model to dramatically lower the upfront cost and the ongoing cost as well as making the exam easier to take up on a job site or in the field so that hopefully those barriers that may have excluded these folks, the test hasn't changed. You still have to be a professional and know what you're doing. We're just making it easier to demonstrate those skills and that knowledge. And one more point that you kind of touched on, Jason, is talking about the big guys.

An alphabet soup agency in Washington, D.C. has examined the fatality data that comes from construction sites and construction companies that have fewer than 20 employees account for 75 percent of the fatal falls out there. So to your example, the big guys have employees, they have resources, they have a safety director and trainings going on and they work with their teams. The smaller guys who may not have those resources are left with information and training gaps. And that's what we at NRCA are really working to try to address.

Jason Stanley: Well, I'm glad to see some of those barriers come down and doing the certification on a rooftop, where you're not taking a guy away from earning a day's pay, taking him into some facility where he feels like he's being examed or examined, having him to be able to perform the work on a rooftop and having a qualified assessor witness him doing his everyday job is a incredible staff or is a great barrier that's being removed to try and get this PROCertification out there.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Mm-hmm. Trent.

Trent Cotney: You know, Heidi, I would say that, similar to what McKay said on the legal side, the one thing that I see is that the larger the revenue, the more risk mitigation that's out there. And a lot of it has to do with access to resources and concern about conserving what's there. So I think part of it is making sure that there is low-cost offerings regardless of whether it's safety or training. For example, I know NRCA, in addition to offering PROCert, does the TRAC program and other things of that nature that provides training. But I think that's key.

And I will agree with the stats that were kind of stated. The majority of fatalities that we see on our end are usually smaller residential contractors. It's not to say it can't happen on a commercial job or with a larger contractor, but you tend to cut corners when you don't have the revenue to have a safety director or things like that. I think we as an industry really need to focus on safety.

And I've said this before, any penny that's spent on safety is a penny that's well spent because there's nothing worse than having an owner on the phone that is in tears because one of their employees has passed. And there's a lot of woulda, coulda, shouldas, that I think we, as an industry, need to make sure that there's stuff like that available so that doesn't occur.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah, and there's so much around this. I do want to read a couple of comments here. First of all, from Joe, "Thank you for being on. Great comments, McKay. If that is ranting, continue please." So I had some agreement out there.

Also from Jim out of Canada. Jim, thank you for being here. It says, "In Canada, labor shortages are no different. It's more acute than it was 20 years ago. Here at the Canadian Roofing Contract Association," again, thank you for being here. "We are lobbying for friendly changes to our immigration system. Specifically, we are lobbying for changes that will treat trades equal to other categories. Secondly, going forward, we are exploring an opportunity to work with an NGO to access refugees." McKay. I mean, these are our friends even. Is this some of the things that you're working together with Canada and also on what they're talking about with refugees?

McKay Daniels: Yeah. Thanks for being here, Jim. It's a white, cloudy, snowy day here in Chicago, so thinking of you up north. You talk about working with access to refugees. That's where the Biden administration has made some overtures there and had some announcements of allowing X number of refugees that have come to this country recently to be able to get permits to work. The problem is it's going too slowly and it's going too small, if you will. The numbers that are coming into the country that are being allowed to remain.

Again, if you're going to allow somebody to stay in your home, you don't just say, "Great, you're here. Now, fend for yourself and take care of it." It just seems backwards. So having temporary work permits or temporary visas for these workers, again, not citizenship, not even a pathway to citizenship, just the ability to work and earn a living and provide for themselves and their families.

That's what they're wanting to do. People didn't travel 2,000 miles through drug-infested lands in foreign countries to come here just to hang out in the basement of O'Hare. They're here to make a better lives for themselves and their families, and we are continuing to advocate, lobby. I appreciate your kind comments on the D.C. team, Trent. They do exceptional work and this is an area that they are lobbying and advocating for as well, increasing the ability of migrants to be able to work. But it is an uphill battle for the political reasons that I touched on before. The Biden administration has the ability to go and dramatically lessen the impact that we are all feeling on this situation right now, but for political reasons, they aren't.

And again, the Trump administration, Trump had illegal workers working at Mar-a-Lago and most of his facilities right up until it was politically expedient to not have that be the case. So this is a bipartisan issue, but the current administration has the ability to make changes and we're going to continue to advocate to them as well as Congress to make it go.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Again, why it's so important to be involved with Roofing Day and with ROOFPAC and with everything that's gone out there. And I just want to say, Jim also said, "As it pertains to the use of undocumented workers, Canada has a pilot project through the Canadian Labor Congress, large Canadian labor union. At the CRCA, we have lobbied for our industry to be included in such a pilot going forward. This is likely for larger cities." So it's exactly kind of what we're talking about. And Jim, thank you so much for those comments. That is excellent.

I think one of the things that I wanted to bring this around to, and we said this at the beginning, is that when there is a lack of regulations, and not on everything, but I'm putting this out there right now, what we're talking about with immigration, there is not a good path to legal immigration right now.

And what we're seeing is people taking advantage of children, with safety, of people who are illegal. So Trent, I want to talk about that a little bit because this is really what kind of spurred on this conversation, too, was the article on child labor. And I'm just going to put it right out there. I was working on a farm when I was 10. I was working with my dad in construction, painting and different things, not up on a roof, but I know Jason was. And so, as an industry, we have a history of family businesses and kids being active within that, but this is different what we're talking about with child labor. So can you address that a little bit, Trent, and just what are some of the laws and what's happening?

Trent Cotney: Sure. Yeah, absolutely. So, Heidi, I'm right there with you. All I've ever known is hard work from the time I could do anything. And I think a lot of people in this industry are the same way. The concerning thing is that clearly there are child labor laws and as you start going down the food chain and you get into the sub or sub subs that are out there, there's a lot of stuff that just shouldn't be happening. I do think that there is a place for older teens to receive training with very tight guidelines and safety parameters. And several states have kind of followed suit, in particular Arkansas and Ohio, I believe, have come out with some regulations to that regard. There's a pending law here in Florida to allow if you're 16 or older to participate almost like an apprenticeship-type program. And we were talking the other day, I think people's mindsets have changed, at least in the last few years, that the push to go to college is becoming less and less.

And we're in a world where soon people with real world skills are going to be the most valuable. With the emergence of AI and automation and everything else, a lot of college degrees will be obsolete. So I think there's a lot of teens now that are looking at the trades as a possible opportunity. And as long as there are parameters, supervision, guidelines, restrictions, safety in place, I think there is an opportunity to have older teens on there. But again, this is something that has to be highly regulated, it has to be monitored. And the concern is with some of these sub crews, that simply isn't happening. And you have events like you heard in The New York Times article.

Heidi J Ellsworth: And at the end of the day, the responsibility for that roof is the roofing company. And so, Jason, you talked about this eloquently the other day, and just that we have to take responsibility of having, knowing what's happening up on the roof as an industry. So sometimes you think, "Oh, the subs, they're just going to handle it, they're going to do it," and there's no connection, especially with the growth of really roofing companies that are not employing full-time employees. They're using mostly subs and they're not monitoring what's happening on the roof. Can you kind of share some of your experience that direction?

Jason Stanley: Well, I think Trent might be able to speak to some of the legalese more than I can, but you have to be careful in what you do to not pierce the veil of what the contractor's responsibility versus the sub crew. Some of these guys want to supply them logoed shirts or logoed safety vests, or they're going to set up the safety. You need to be very clear in whose roles and responsibility, who has which role and which responsibility. But I will tell you, I am shocked by contractors who hire subcontract labor crews and don't have any supervision from the company on the job site.

Now, while he can't run the whole job and run all the crews, and he needs to work with the crew boss and the crew foreman, and the crew foreman needs to make those corrections on the job site, you need to know who's on your roof not only from a safety standpoint, there's a huge exposure, OSHA and other things, but not only from a safety standpoint, but also from a quality standpoint.

One crew is much different than the next crew. So you may hire a company, but the quality of the work is going to greatly depend on the crew that shows up and the work they do. And these contractors are often shocked when jobs go bad or jobs don't go as anticipated, but you need to know who's on your roof and you need to be monitoring that roof that's going on. Just turning this over to a sub crew and walking away from it is a terrible business model.

Heidi J Ellsworth: And Trent, speak to that because I mean, there's liabilities, there's risk.

Trent Cotney: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, look, I say this a lot. If contractors did everything that I told them to do, their insurance agent told them to do, and accounting told them to do, they'd be out of a job. But I think this is a situation where there are risk mitigation factors that you can do to ensure that you've got a safe work site, but also you're not potentially exposing yourself as the prime roofing contractor to potential OSHA liability for your subs' bad acts. So part of that is making sure that you've got a good contractual relationship, but I believe that you can ensure safety on a job site through top-down enforcement. There are different ways to go about doing that, but I believe a hundred percent what Jason said, you can't be hands off. Not only from a quality control standpoint, but from a safety and customer service standpoint, you've got to know what's going on on your roofs.

McKay Daniels: But it is a fine line as misclassification issues continue to rise up. And misclassification is where the government says, "Actually, these weren't subcontractors. These were really employees." And so, you owe XYZ and back taxes, XYZ in penalties, fines. And those penalties can get significant with the law of large numbers over multiple years depending on the enforcement there. So the contractor needs to be careful on the other side of that coin as well.

And again, it goes back to we're stuck in the middle on this. It's a damned if you do, damned if you don't. And that just makes it incredibly challenging to do the right thing by your customer, by your company, by your employees, by your subs. The dynamic is incredibly challenging.

Trent Cotney: And to echo what McKay said, the Department of Labor is currently looking at changing the analysis of how you determine whether or not a subcontractor is truly an independent contractor or should really be your W-2 employee. And the example I always give is that if you have a sub crew that only works for you, doesn't work for anybody else, is wearing your gear, doesn't market and advertise, they're probably your employee, you're just not paying them correctly. And as a lot of ramifications, your payroll tax, you're not keeping I-9s on them, all the different things that come about from both the regulation side and an insurance side. Huge, huge issue, but it's sort of a catch-22, given the lack of skilled labor.

McKay Daniels: And it looks like it's going to happen, that standard changes, then we'll see that veil get even thicker because contractors will try to stay clear of that bright line and stay on that side of the no, they are subs, which makes it even more of a hands-off relationship and dynamic.
Heidi J Ellsworth: When you think about the consumers, right? You think about the homeowners and the building owners out there who are seeing in some of these extreme cases that we saw in that article are seeing children up on the roof, are seeing unsafe, no harnesses and what's going on. That leads, again, to just this impression of the roofing industry that has not always been positive that we have worked so hard to change and put out there. And so, to thicken that veil and to not know what's happening on the roofs that you've sold, I think is going to only create more.

It's wrong in the first place and it's going to multiply into wrongness. And Jason, I know you're seeing this every day with these crews. And so we had a really good question from Joe Sorrentino, thank you, Joe. He was on yesterday on the Coding's cast or talk. He said, "How can a seasoned industry professionals help to educate, train the new members entering the roofing industry?" And I'm adding this. That this isn't Joe's. That was his question, but I'm also adding, how can we be doing this with these sub crews, too? I'm going to send it over to Jason.

Jason Stanley: Well, so PROCertification is a great point or a great start. We also have TRAC programs. These are available in English and Spanish. They're very robust. There's lots of videos and we should be leveraging content that's available today that's already been created. You don't have to go create new rich content, it's already there. We just have to find a way to bring these people out of the shadows and start disseminating this information to them. We're seeing with this platform, Labor Central, the interests in manufacturers trying to disseminate installation information. They'll show up and do a lunch and learn at ABC Supply or Beacon or SRS and who shows up or maybe the estimators or the owners or maybe a foreman, but the guys who actually need the information are in the field working. They're not there getting the training.

Clemson University had a good conversation with Deval about this. There are billions of dollars in material defect claims. The majority of those material defect claims have nothing to do with the product and how it was produced. It had to do with how it was installed and it's identified as a defect or material defect because of improper installation.

So there's a huge barrier in trying to get not only safety and collateral to these people that are in the shadows that perform the work, but also installation knowledge so they can perform better jobs to reduce the number of claims that come out of this. But we've got to find better ways to share this information. Part of it just comes through being inclusive. I know we talk about a lot of inclusion, but we spoke about it.

We got free passes from Informa for the IRE for 2023 in Dallas, and I was over the moon. For the first time we were going to try and pull a large number of Hispanics into the IRE to see the glory that is the International Roofing Expo, right? I mean, it's incredible. And there was so many barriers for them to get through. Not only was the form multiple pages, no option for Spanish, it was clunky and funky and, even to get your free pass, you still had to put in a credit card and donate a dollar to then get in.

So there was barrier after barrier, and then once you did get in, if you got there, there's nobody there that speaks Spanish. Here we have a huge market segment or population segment that we depend on every day to get the work done. And you show up at the IRE, there's no Spanish line, there's no Spanish signage, there's nothing to try and at least provide some accommodations for these folks to welcome them in to the show.

So I applaud the NRCA and Informa. They've made great strides. We're hopeful that this show that's coming up in February in Las Vegas, we'll see some of those barriers removed and we can start to welcome some of these people to come in and see what the NRCA has to offer, what the International Roofing Expo has to offer and all the great tools that exist for them.

Heidi J Ellsworth: I think ... And go ahead, McKay.

McKay Daniels: Well, just to pick up on the point on PROCertification specifically that Jason touched on it, we are working again to bring that cost and the barrier to entry down so it can be at an individual level because if you're a contractor going out to Labor Central or any other mechanism to find a crew, that contractor is, I hope, asking for proof of workman's comp insurance, proof of XYZ, licensing and all of those legal parameters and check boxes that need to be checked.

An easy pre-qualification standard that can be in place as well just to guarantee a minimum threshold of competency and professionalism of those that will actually be on the roof is does the installer have an OSHA 10, OSHA 30? Is the installer PROCertified or not? Have they taken XYZ class or not? And Trent, jump in if I'm speaking out of legal terms, but contractors are well within the right of having generic, broad-based, pre-qualification criteria. If you want to come and work for me, these are the standards that you need to meet. They're doing it right now anyway with insurance and other mechanisms. You could add a what-training-does-this-crew-have standard, I would imagine, and still pass the legal muster. American Airlines contracts with whole other companies to come and fly planes under American Airlines' banner, but they're sub crews, but you damn well better know those pilots have a pilot's license. There's a hands-off, but there is a threshold of duty of care that does exist.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah.

Trent Cotney: I'll say first, I mentioned how great NRCA's lobbying team is. Duane just posted the link to the new DOL rule that came out yesterday and McKay and I kind of referenced the issues there. It is more restrictive than previous rules as far as how subcontractors are going to be looked at. One of the key things that I think what you should look at when you look at that rule is the fact that they're looking at whether or not a sub crew is really a part of production. Is it an integral unit of your business? And this is moving closer and closer to California's rules. So contractors should be aware it is a risk, and I think this administration is making it easier to misclassify independent contractors.

Get back to Joe's question, how do we convey the wisdom that has been earned by the seasoned professionals in our industry to those that are coming up regardless of whether it's subs or people that are just entering the industry. As some of you know, I'm a little bit of a roofing history nerd myself, and I'm a big believer that a lot of our experience and our knowledge in the industry is oral. It's passed down from generation to generation. I think it's really important that associations in general, regardless of whether it's local, regional or NRCA, that those with experience participate and then use that as a vehicle to help pass down their experience.

I can tell you myself, when we have new lawyers coming in, they're probably smarter than I am, but it's hard to make up for experience. It's hard. Wisdom gives you those battle scars that allows you to really understand and master your craft. And I'm looking at some of the attendees that we got here. I mean, these are some of the pillars of the industry. You've got incredible amount of experience that you can't really convey unless you're present. So I believe associations really provide sort of that vehicle to convey that information. I know Joe and I have been attending the local Tampa one for 25 years now and FRSA and NRCA and everything else. So, really, I think that's a great vehicle to accomplish that.

Heidi J Ellsworth: I was going to just say the same thing, Trent, because I wanted to make sure we did answer Joe's question. But Joe, one of the things is the industry NRCA with PROCertification is looking for, I'm going to say the wrong name, but McKay, they're looking for people to come in and audit and to do the certifications on the roof and the different things.

McKay Daniels: Yes. But that's another area where we've again lowered the barriers and bureaucracy, if you will, that now the exam can be done in the course of somebody doing their job and it can even be a foreman or a coworker there on the job with them with a cell phone camera that they upload the video to an app and it's boom, boom and it's off and running. So you don't even have to now coordinate with an in-person observer to be on the roof with you. That's still an option, but it can be done via video submission in nearly real time.
Heidi J Ellsworth: That's great. That's great.

Jason Stanley: You know, McKay, there's another platform or another ... It's the same platform, but another certification, it's the ProCert foreman that doesn't even require onsite-

McKay Daniels: Doesn't require an onsite.

Jason Stanley: It's not a technical course or hands-on, if you will, but you can take that online in English or Spanish today. And at a minimum requirement, if we could see that the foreman has a ProCert foreman certification or designation would at least understand they have a minimum understanding of safety, contract agreements, roles, responsibilities. And again, it's in English and Spanish. This robust content already exists. It's just not being disseminated to the people that really need it. And then once they're in the ProCert TRAC, they start with ProCert foreman, then they can start doing these other adoptions of ProCert applications.

But the NRCA is doing incredible things. I do want to reiterate that these ProCert classes are great. TRAC is incredible for attracting new talent into the roofing industry. Can't believe how many trade schools now have adopted this curriculum that Clemson University was critical in creating.

And even now at a higher level, bringing attention to people that are going to construction schools to be construction engineering or construction management now have college courses. A roofing 101, 201, and 301 to actually have a good vernacular around roofing, a good understanding. I've long believed that roofing is probably one of the most value engineered items in a construction envelope, in large part out of ignorance. They just don't know the importance, how critical that roof is. And I applaud the work that's being done by The Roofing Alliance, by Clemson, by the NRCA to try and bring roofing to the forefront. And even SkillsUSA, is wonderful that roofing for the first time was represented in the national competition for SkillsUSA. And we are doing exciting things. For those people that don't think things are happening, things are happening more than they've happened in the last 20 years.

Heidi J Ellsworth: And we've seen it. And so much is happening.

And I kind of want to step back, too, because I think Joe's question is really a great one. And we also had some other questions. Melissa's asking, and Richie, thank you for being here, "If this will be translated into Spanish." Yes, Megan's going to have subtitles on it, so we're going to be able to share that out.

And that kind of leads me to what can we do in that be inclusive. Jason, this kind of goes back to your thought. I'm just thinking of all the manufacturer's reps, all of the contractors, everybody's out there. Are we embracing the migrants who are coming into this country? Are we embracing them, encouraging them to get training through their local associations?

I mean, I think about North Texas. I'm getting an email every day from them. I love them. It's all on safety, it's everything. And they are training. They are reaching out to people who do not have it. So as an industry, a lot of times I think we say, "Oh, NRCA can do this," or, "The associations can do this," but really it's up to each one of us be inclusive, to get to know the crews on the roof, to encourage that kind of training out there. And it really starts at the local associations and pushing that training out, which we're seeing. You just presented yesterday on this.

Trent Cotney: Right. Yeah, absolutely. No. I think it's important for the associations to kind of lead the charge, but I think contractors also have a duty, right? I think it's important that there's outreach there and that they're doing what they can to train their own workforce and do it in a way that you're not potentially exposing yourself to liability, but also focusing not just on safety but on workmanship. We need to return to the understanding that as a whole, roofing is a craft, it is an art. And I think the closer that we move to that, the more professionalism and responsibility that we as an industry will maintain. So I think part of it, obviously associations lead the charge, but I think every contractor out there should look at what opportunities can they do to be inclusive and help train and elevate us as a whole.

Heidi J Ellsworth: And John Van Beek, I don't want you to think I've been ignoring your comments. I have not. I've been saving them. But John has had a couple of comments in here just about Labor Central and, "It seems to me that technology is one of the ways that we are going to start breaking some of the veil." The fact that translation, Google translation, I know some of that seems kind of crazy, but also John just pointed out with the new laws that Dwayne put out there or the regulations, it's that now you are able to go into technology and you're able to see multiple crews, you're able to get information to them. And you talked about this earlier, Jason, of how can we bilingually get information out? How can we address that? And technology is part of the solution here, I believe.

Jason Stanley: Yeah, we spoke to it earlier that those have a craft or a skill that are people that can be employable. We're trying to put away our Christmas stuff and we don't have enough room in our attic to store all our Christmas and Halloween stuff now, so we call the contractor in to come and deck a portion of our attic so that we could store a few more things. But there's these pipes in the way and instantly you got to call a plumber. And this guy comes in with it looked like he was no more than 22 years old, but in the matter of 30 minutes, was able to move three copper pipes, resolder them together, water test it, and we were good to go. The guy made $200 in literally less than an hour because he had a skill set, particular craft, he had an understanding and he is employable and much needed to somebody like myself.

Trent said it. AI is going to take over a lot of the degrees that people have today that have spent all this time learning information that now can be easily captured, disseminated and applied. But skills, skilled trade? My goodness. Talk about a need that we have desperately in this country and I hope people are taking note of who is it that does those dirty jobs? Micro.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Micro, yeah.

Jason Stanley: He's been talking on this for how many years, about the need, the skills gap, I believe he calls it. The need for people to go to these trade schools. But up until a few years ago, roofing really wasn't even a viable option. It wasn't discussed at most trade schools. Today, that's becoming more and more than norm that when you go to a trade school, roofing is an option. If it's not, then go talk to your local trade school. We have all the curriculum that can be presented to the school, quizzes, tests, the whole nine yards so they have it and they can start deploying it and teaching it in their schools. But we've got to start somewhere like SkillsUSA and these trade schools and bringing people into this roofing industry, but that's going to take 10 or more years to do.

We have a problem today, which is we have a bunch of migrant labor here. They're performing tasks that are much needed by roofing contractors, so finding a way to disseminate installation training, disseminate safety training, deploy some of the rich content that's available through the NRCA is a great pathway for now.

Heidi J Ellsworth: Yeah. McKay, you were nodding as we were going through there, and I know that I really would like to, just as we kind of come to the end of this hour, which I can't believe went so fast, I know there's a lot of people who are saying we need the leadership to really help with bilingual, diversity, immigration, to really start this inclusivity of getting the safety we need, getting the regulations followed. Talk to us a little bit about that bigger picture. I know all three of us have been sitting on committee meetings and working on all these and everything we've talked about today is being talked about in a committee meeting, but I'd like you to give that big picture going into 2024, not only how people can get involved with NRCA, how they can get involved with Roofing Day, how they can start doing something locally. I would just love your thoughts.

McKay Daniels: Yeah. Well, the first, what is it? The best day to plant a tree was 30 years ago. The next best day is today. And for contractors today, there are so many different paths and options out there that it does just take that first step. NRCA has, it's been touched on at great length here, has ample content training classes, whether online, in-person, synchronous, asynchronous and resources, but we can't force a contractor to use it or force somebody to use it. We can encourage and cajole, beg, borrow and plead, but it does take that on-the-ground step.

And we were talking about North Texas Roofing Contractors Association. One of the things that we're working on, closed out 2023 with it, really focusing in 2024 with it, the NRCA has had this one voice initiative, if you will, which is bringing the manufacturing and contractor communities together, industry and contractors working together with one voice to try to move the ball forward on these big challenges and tasks facing the industry.

This year, we're broadening that definition a bit to one voice with the local, regional, state roofing affiliates. NRCA is one entity, but there are 65 or more local and regional associations out there that have capable staff and ample resources to help as well. And we at NRCA are trying to push that down for the good of the industry to, "Hey, North Texas, RCAT, you have XYZ conference coming up. Here's some resources that you can use for your members and non-members alike," again, to try to get the information out there, but it does take action and activity on all of our parts. This isn't a problem that's going to solve itself and likely isn't a problem that's going to be solved by politicians anytime soon.

So it does take us, big and small, working together on it, advocating to Washington, D.C. with Roofing Day in April and your local member of Congress in between, requiring or putting in practices if you are using subcontractors, what training and skills do they have and asking that question and pointing them to resources that they can go and do at a very easily affordable. We were talking before this Zoom about how cost effective you can get an OSHA 10 class for these days. It's not a barrier to entry, it's just needs to be routinized a bit out there more than it currently is.

But I am confident that we can bend this curve down and bring falls ... Fatalities were up in construction and in roofing last year, year over year. Right now, we are heading the wrong way. We all should take it as an imperative for all of us, and I know myself, this team at NRCA and our volunteer leadership shares it deeply, too. We have a moral imperative to bend this curve back down and we're going to remain focused on it in the year ahead.

Heidi J Ellsworth: That is great. Gentlemen, I just think at the end of the day, it's all of our responsibilities to know who's on the roofs and make sure they go home safely and that the right people trained to do the right jobs. Jason, do you have a final?
Jason Stanley: No, just I'm honored to be here. I certainly appreciate you, Heidi, for bringing these sort of critical topics to the industry. You certainly have been the grassroots movement within this industry. So, much applause to RoofersCoffeeShop and all the hard work you do.

Certainly Trent, incredible. You're a savant when it comes to these things on legal issues and truly appreciate your leadership on these topics. You do a great, great service to this industry. So truly just honored to be part of this conversation.

A big part of it is just talking about it. These people have been in the shadows for far too long and these operations, it's a deep, dirty secret in roofing and nobody really wants to talk about it. As soon as you start talking about it, then we need to start saying, "Okay, now that you know, well, what are you going to do about it?" Something I tell my kids a lot. Ignorance is bliss. But then once you know, integrity comes with, "Okay, now you know. What are you going to do with it?"

Heidi J Ellsworth: I just have to say, Jason, that is so true, and I would put the challenge out to everyone. Our RoofersCoffeeShop site is bilingual. It's in Spanish, French and English. I'm not saying it's perfect, but it's something. We all have to take that step to embrace and be inclusive of our migrant Americans who are trying to come to this great country and reaching out and doing exactly. Jason, you are leading the way this way, taking it out of the dark and having the conversation. So everyone please, please talk about it. Please be aware of what's going on on the roofs out there and knowing that we're all responsible for everyone getting home safe every night and being included in being a part of all of this.

So I want to say, "Thank you." We're at the top of the hour. I appreciate all of you so much. You have all kinds of applause coming in here. I especially want to thank IB Roof for Jason. Thank you so much for being a leader and sponsoring this and really breaking the veil, bringing the conversation to life. I love it.

I also want to encourage everyone to join us in two weeks for Beyond the Roof, talking about expanding into the building envelope. It's not just the roof anymore, it's a whole nine yards. We're going to have some great experts there to talk about this. So please register today. It is sponsored by SOPREMA. We thank them very much.

And then don't forget IRE, bring them. We're going to be live in the lobby. You will see us right there. We're going to be having coffee conversations, and it is going to be a great week with a lot of bilingual going on. So thank you all so much for being here today. We'll look forward to seeing you in two weeks and three weeks from now, we'll all be in Vegas. We'll see you then. Have a great day.

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