By Shan Lathem • ARA President
Every year ARA sends delegates to Capitol Hill to represent the best interests of all automotive dismantlers nationwide. I was disappointed to not be able to make the trip this year. It took longer than expected for the offices to open back up post-COVID and there just wasn’t enough time to plan for it. Some of us from Florida were, however, able to make our way to Tallahassee in January of this year and visit with legislators and aides in my home state before the session started. It served as a great reminder of why Hill Days are so important and why we all need to show up and participate. We had 34 appointments on the books. Our goal was to educate our state lawmakers on the catalytic converter bill that was making its way through committee meetings. Like other states, Florida hasn’t had any regulations on the books that give law enforcement the “teeth’ needed to be able to hold thieves accountable for stealing catalytic converters. This was what we were advocating for during our trip to our state Capitol. Of course, to get to the point where you ask for their support you’ve got to lay the groundwork. That’s why it’s so important to build relationships with your legislators even before you need them.
Whenever I walk into a room where I’m going to have a conversation with someone whom I am unsure understands our industry, I always ask them the question, “Do you know what automotive dismantlers do?” It always surprises me that they usually do not. Time is limited in these meetings, so I give the fastest two-minute run down explaining it to them, while also making sure to differentiate dismantlers from scrappers. This can be super confusing for people but it’s critical to make the differentiation. Oftentimes, we are on opposite ends of the spectrum regarding legislation. They need to know who they are talking to and how we are different.
Want to take a guess as to how many of the people we met with knew about our industry and what we do? Less than 15%. And of those, most of them we have relationships with or have worked with in the past. Let’s face it – automotive dismantlers get the short end of the stick. We always have. Every time I turn around, I am reminded that we MUST do a better job educating the public, the lawmakers, and, heck, even our family and friends on what it is that we do. Marketing our industry to the masses has never been something we’ve done particularly well. Leadership at ARA understands this, and we are pushing to find a new focus on awareness.
Advocacy is the primary role of ARA, the pillar upon which all else is built in the Association. As a member of ARA, you can sit in on the Legislative Affairs Committee calls and hear in real time what bills are being considered and what opportunities there may be to speak to your representative. For more information about this, don’t hesitate to reach out to myself, or Jessica Andrews at Jessica@a-r-a.org.