U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez invited a select group of aggregates executives for a frank dialogue on the key issues facing the industry. At the Oct. 20 meeting, representatives from the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (NSSGA), aggregates producers, and state aggregates associations stressed the need for increased infrastructure investment to grow the economy and create jobs, and continued collaboration to improve mine safety.
“We had a great conversation,” said Michael W. Johnson, president and CEO of NSSGA, in an exclusive interview with Rock Products after the event. “Secretary Perez truly believes that if we are going to get our economy back on track, we need to invest in infrastructure. He was very specific that he would be a powerful advocate for a long-term highway bill, investing in America and creating jobs.”
The meeting was spearheaded by the Department of Labor’s Assistant Secretary for Mine Safety and Health Joseph Main. “We discussed our shared goals of creating good safe jobs and rebuilding America’s infrastructure for the future,” Main said. “An infrastructure bill in Congress would serve both goals by establishing a long-term budget for needed building and repair. It is estimated that this bill would support millions of new jobs, including many in the industries represented at the roundtable.”
While infrastructure was foremost on the mind of roundtable attendees, safety wasn’t far behind. “In recent years, all of us at the Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration have worked hard to expand our outreach and communications with industry stakeholders, including the metal and nonmetal mining sectors,” Main said. “Since the start of my term five years ago, we have worked to improve consistency and clarify expectations in enforcement, and collaborated on training and outreach projects such as our initiatives on machine guarding and ladder safety, which have resulted in significant improvements in mine safety.”
Producers in attendance agreed. Many of them noted that things are getting better, citations are down, and education and training are important component of that. In addition, the consensus among aggregates producers around the table was that MSHA needs to invigorate its small mines program to reach many operations outside of the realm of national and state associations.
Another topic discussed was creating a workforce to meet future demand. Some of the ideas dissected were how to increase the hiring of veterans, working closer with job centers and creating a database designed to match people with jobs.
“We were flattered that labor reached out to us and recognized the importance of our industry, and is willing to work with us in the future,” Johnson said. Perez told them he would like the group to meet again in six months.
Industry participants were:
- Michael Johnson and Joseph Casper, NSSGA.
- Ron Summers and Allen Hamblen, CalPortland.
- Mike Hawbaker, Glenn O. Hawbaker.
- Randy Mucha and Tom Chizmadia, Lehigh Hanson.
- Charles Luck IV, Luck Stone.
- John Tiberi, Martin Marietta.
- Rod Martin, Martin Stone
- Paul Detwiler III, New Enterprise Stone & Lime Co., Inc.
- Jerry Geraghty, Rogers Group Inc.
- Bruce Chattin, Washington Aggregates and Concrete Association.
- Steve Trussell, Arizona Rock Products Association.
- John Cardosa, Georgia Construction Aggregates Association.
- Robert G. Jones, Indiana Mineral Aggregates Association.
- Rich White, Iowa Limestone Producers Association Inc.
- Ron Gray, Kentucky Crushed Stone Association.
- Pat Jacomet, Ohio Aggregates & Industrial Minerals Association.
- Steve Rudloff, Missouri Limestone Producers Association Inc.