This is the story of the Colorado plumbing industry and how it took proactive measures to ensure plumbing industry professionalism and plumbing industry partnership (union and nonunion) while pursuing the constructs of a visionary mission to safeguard Coloradoans and maintain the integrity of its trade.
Through selflessness driven to bring about consensus between Plumbers Local No. 3 and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of Colorado, the residents of Colorado are truly fortunate.
When it comes to protecting the interests of “the people,” failure is unacceptable and not an option, especially as it applies to health and safety. Whatever the profession, business or industry, the health and safety of the people is all that matters.
Sounds simplistic, somewhat obvious, and perhaps even commonsensical, right?
In fact, presumptively, the vast majority of Americans take for granted that their health and safety interests are maintained, preserved and secured. Unfortunately, this can, at times, be far from the truth — and the consequences can be deadly (such as the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in Flint, Michigan, with an official death toll of 12).
We can speculate that the majority of Americans believe by virtue of their citizenship in our nation that their local, state and national governments naturally “have their backs.”
However, herein lies the confusion demanding clarification, which effectively serves as a guide in terms of those who design health and safety programs and are in a position to structure solutions in the future. After all:
• Whose job is it to protect the health and safety of our citizens?
• Who’s qualified to decide policies as they relate to the health and safety interests of those citizens?
• Whose job is it to create and implement programs and processes in the health and safety interests of our citizens?
State and national lawmakers, regulators, commissions and task forces?
Perhaps, but hardly.
Working toward a common goal
Here are the players in Colorado: Sean Wyatt, business manager, Plumbers Local No. 3; Phil Hayes, principal at Populi Public Affairs; Bruce Kraynak, president of the Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors of Colorado (PHCC Colorado); Susan Frew, immediate past president and current chair of the Legislative Committee for the PHCC Colorado and current board of director for the PHCC-National Association; Kim Gill, executive director of PHCC Colorado; and Elisabeth Rosen, contract lobbyist with Political Advocacy Inc.
For years, one of the many political buzzwords across the country gravitates around job creation. Amen. But raising the issue merely morphs into a sound bite — taking action to solve the problem is complicated.
Some lawmakers would have us believe that to create jobs, a direct intention to dismantle or relax standards of an industry (in this case, plumbing) is needed to allow more individuals into it. By making it less restrictive, it would seem to be part of the job creation solution. Absolutely irresponsible.
However, this has become all too common, and we’ve been experiencing these shortsighted policy decision approaches by lawmakers across the country for the past few years.
But the plumbing industry in Colorado rejects that mindset and is taking action to protect the citizens of the “Nothing without Providence” state. It is doing so while elevating the professionalism of the plumbing industry, and exhibiting a true partnership between merit and open shop plumbers to protect the residents of Colorado. Makes me want to move to Colorado.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with members of the PHCC Colorado and Plumbers Local No. 3 to better understand how they moved ambitious legislation through the Colorado state legislature — which has now been signed into law by the governor and is headed into the regulatory process for implementation — that enhances the professionalism in the industry and keeps the “bad players” out. It was an enlightening engagement for me, as I had the opportunity to hear from union and nonunion members of the plumbing industry.
While I fully expected to merely discuss the legislation both groups supported and advocated on behalf of, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the sincere tone of cooperation and partnership between them. And all in the spirit to continue to heighten professionalism of the industry in Colorado and protect its residents. Plumbers Local No. 3 and PHCC Colorado forged a united front that was the key to gaining support from state lawmakers and the governor.
“Here in Colorado, the plumbing industry is focused on designing and implementing policies that hold our industry to the highest standards,” says Bruce Kraynak, president of PHCC Colorado. “We strive to not only maintain our high standards, we seek to increase our commitment to our profession.”
Sean Wyatt, business manager of Plumbers Local No. 3, notes: ”What’s great about this legislation is that it had nothing to do with being union or nonunion; it was entirely about correcting issues both entities saw as problematic in the industry. We worked side-by-side on introducing the best language so that all benefited equally for the betterment of the industry. I truly believe this endeavor has opened the door for us to work more closely with one another in the future.”
Interpretation and implementation
The result? In April of this year, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed into law legislation titled, “Plumbing Inspections Ensure Compliance.” In essence, the new law:
• Requires contemporaneous review. This is a review of each plumbing project inspected, including licensure and apprenticeship requirements.
• Establishes continuing education. It modifies renewal and reinstatement requirements for plumber licenses.
I work in public policy; I don’t work in the plumbing industry. Having spent time with Plumbers Local No. 3 and the PHCC of Colorado, I’ve learned the critical need for contemporaneous review and continued education, and the essential relationship each plays to ensure high professionalism.
The legislation now enters into the regulatory process — and arguably, this is where the legislative rubber hits the regulatory road. Whereas the legislative process is the adoption of concept, the regulatory process is the interpretation of the concept and structuring details to deliver the tenets of the legislation.
However, with the backing and cooperation of the plumbers in Colorado, combined with the continued spirit of unity, it seems a safe bet that the very essence of the efforts to continue to protect (and increase protections for) Colorado residents, will succeed.
At a time when many states across the country are considering and have taken action to soften standards in the plumbing industry (in the name of job creation), Colorado’s plumbing industry took proactive action to ensure the health and safety of its citizens.