By Mike Joyce
OOIDA director of legislative affairs
We have come a long way in our efforts to advocate on behalf of truckers. Recently, I thought of the years I’ve spent representing OOIDA. I remember the first year, Rod Nofziger and I shared one phone line and one Internet connection for a few months. I remember requesting meetings with members of Congress and staff and, yes, attending fundraisers for certain members of Congress, trying to spread the word and tell the story of the hard-working professional truckers. I remember schedulers and legislative staffers saying, “owner-operators of what?”
I will tell you from my time working on Capitol Hill for nearly 10 years, the Association’s efforts have made a huge difference. Today, when we call to set up a meeting with members and staffers outside of the usual committees we work with, they know OOIDA. Face it, it’s a huge asset to have more than 150,000 active members, websites, a big magazine circulation and a very popular radio show.
You may not see that each day in a clear announcement of policy, legislation or success, but believe me when I tell you that by working together the Association makes a difference in what members of Congress think, say and do.
I recently returned from our 2010 Fall OOIDA Board of Directors meeting in Grain Valley, MO. For me, the board meetings are always an invigorating four or five days. It is enormously refreshing to get out of DC and to listen to the leadership of the Association I represent every day in Washington.
On this recent trip to Missouri, one Board member asked me, “Mike, don’t you feel as though you have to take a good shower after your day of work in DC?”
I sometimes do get tired of the doublespeak. One day a member of Congress is on your side, fighting for your cause; the next day they have a piece of legislation on the floor that you have to oppose.
It can be enormously frustrating dealing in intangibles – just words, handshakes, hopes, pushing and prodding, trying to influence thinking and outcomes. But “there’s no crying in baseball” and that’s how the game in DC is played.
Until that changes, isn’t it better to be in the game than sitting on the sidelines letting other organizations dictate the direction of policy? Because I will tell you, other organizations will do that without blinking.
We may not like the rules of the game or a playing field that seems to favor larger organizations and corporations that have more money or people representing their interests on Capitol Hill. But because of you, and because of the efforts of OOIDA leadership and the Board of Directors, we have committed resources to the legislative and regulatory process. And believe me – we’ve “got game.”
We know that you are on the road trying to make a living. You have joined an Association to bring the collective voices of the trucker together, and we take the direction that our OOIDA leadership gives us very seriously each day we step onto the playing field of Capitol Hill. It makes me very proud when I return to Washington that I get to represent truckers.
That’s the job, and for OOIDA, having representation in DC has always been the job.
The constant interaction with our Grain Valley headquarters, the continued conversations with our members, and trips to truck shows like MATS, all help to keep your Washington, DC, office staff grounded in what we do, and connected with who we represent – you.
It was reaffirmed during the meeting, through the oath of office that the newly elected board members take, that OOIDA has never lost sight of the original purpose for which the Association began in 1973 – to represent the professional trucker, to be “your voice” in Washington. LL