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Representatives from the Cleaning Coalition of America (CCA) held a series of meetings on Capitol Hill last month, speaking with officials from seven Senate and Congressional offices. Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies helped the Coalition plan the visits and accompanied CCA officials to the meetings. Bill Warnecki (co-chair of BSCAI government affairs committee and president of SERVPRO Alexandria and several other franchises) and Brian Rauch (General Counsel of Harvard Maintenance) led the delegation.

Below, Bill describes the importance of advocacy efforts, the topics discussed during the meetings, and potential next steps.

Why did the CCA decide to arrange its first-ever series of meetings on Capitol Hill?

Bill: Our industry, like others, faces real challenges attracting and retaining top talent. In this environment, we need to work with policymakers, especially in two specific areas: providing pathways for work authorization that will increase the pipeline of employees, and a level playing-field where all companies play by the rules. The truth is that elected officials don’t fully understand our industry and the economic value we provide. We have to take some responsibility for that. We know that our companies keep children in school, help employees stay productive, and ensure the operation of essential services – but we have to make that case in Washington, DC and around the country. It was our goal to these meetings to bridge that gap and demonstrate our willingness to be a resource and a partner in helping our industry.

Generally speaking, what did you discuss in these meetings?

Bill: We had a good opportunity to share our perspective with a range of officials, because we met with staffers from both Senate and House offices, Republicans and Democrats, and different geographic areas. We stressed that CCA members are truly dedicated to supporting our frontline workers; we provide good jobs, living wages, and professional development opportunities to all employees. We also shared that the Coalition represents over a million employees in states across the country – the essential, invisible workforce that helped the U.S get back open and back to work safely. Finally, we offered CAA as a resource to Congress on issues that affect lower-wage workers, non-college-educated workers, and the need for more pathways to the workforce for lower-skilled labor, as well as highlighting our thought leadership around being the authority on clean.

What’s next on the advocacy front?

Bill: Everyone in our business knows that the work is never fully done, and the same thing is true on the public policy side. The meetings on the Hill were beneficial and interesting as we described the impact of our companies and our commitment to advocating on behalf of our members and our workers. There’s nothing more important in building relationships than meeting face-to-face, having an open discussion, and laying the foundation for progress. In addition to our discussion about work authorization, we talked about CCA’s other core messages: professional cleaning leads to healthier employees and more productive companies; we provide jobs and opportunities to develop; we contribute to the economy; and we are good corporate citizens. In every meeting, I could see that the staffers understood our concerns and appreciated the benefits we provided in the states and districts. Most importantly, they were willing to hear more. At the same time, we learned about their perspective on a range of issues and how they see the legislative process around work authorization playing out. The biggest lesson we learned (or re-learned) was that we have to stay involved, deepen our relationships with elected officials, and be a willing partner on legislative and regulatory discussions. Our industry has a significant economic and social impact and we need ensure our voice is present in crucial public policy discussions. I look forward to returning to Capitol Hill and advocating for our businesses and frontline workers. The work continues!