A New Playing Field

A New Playing Field

Attendees of NPMA Legislative Day, set for March 1-2, strive to make their voices heard amidst Washington’s changing political and regulatory scene.

February 8, 2010
Brad Harbison

In one year’s time much has changed in Washington, D.C., where members of Congress have been busy with issues ranging from health care to economic recovery initiatives to national security. New faces on Capitol Hill and within government agencies, such as EPA, also characterize today’s D.C.

One of the ways NPMA and its members work to ensure that the pest control industry’s message does not get “lost in the shuffle” is through NPMA Legislative Day, which is scheduled for March 1-2, at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, in Washington, D.C. Legislative Day is an opportunity for PCOs to visit their elected officials in an organized fashion to make sure the industry’s voice is heard on issues that impact them.

Bob Rosenberg, senior vice president, NPMA, says lobbying efforts are most successful when Congressional members hear first-hand from their constituents. “What we’ve learned is that it’s better to have PCOs meet with their members of Congress than NPMA because (members of Congress) would rather hear from their constituents. When you really find that ‘sweet spot’ is when there is an issue that is meaningful to PCOs and they can go in and relate their experiences,” he said.

Rosenberg said Legislative Day attendees will be asked to share with their elected officials the industry’s position on a pair of issues – the School Environment Protection Act (SEPA), H.R. 4159, and The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Additionally, attendees will be encouraged to relate industry concerns about the resurgence of bed bugs and will be asked to explore federal solutions with members of Congress.

‘CARD CHECK.’ An issue of concern to many business owners – including PCOs – is The Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 1409, S. 560) also referred to as “card check.”

EFCA is proposed legislation to “amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to establish an easier system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, and for other purposes.”

Currently, NLRA establishes two primary ways that employees are able to form or join a union: 1) a private ballot election administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after at least 30 percent of workers have signed authorization cards or 2) the collection of signed authorization “check cards” from a majority of employees in a bargaining unit.

EFCA fundamentally alters the NLRA by allowing unions to use the “card check” process or signature campaign each time they try to organize employees. If enacted, EFCA would require the NLRB to certify any union that secures a simple majority of signatures through this petition-like process. Such a process effectively allows the establishment of unions everywhere without a valid vote. Under the “card check” method, union organizers present employee signatures on authorization cards as representing the true intent of the workers. However, even a Federal Appeals Court has noted that, “Workers sometimes sign union authorization cards not because they intend to vote for the union in the election, but to avoid offending the person who asks them to sign, often a fellow worker, or simply to get the person off their back.”

Many businesses, including pest control businesses, believe that the only way to guarantee worker protection is through the continued use of a federally supervised private ballot so that personal decisions about whether to join a union remain private. Swapping federally supervised private ballot elections for a “card check” process tramples the privacy of individual workers who should not have to reveal to anyone how they exercise their right to choose whether to organize their coworkers in a union.

Last year, EFCA stalled in the U.S. Senate. “What happened is that enough moderate Democrats stood in opposition to it due to the state of the economy,” Rosenberg said. “The prospects of this bill passing this year are not great, especially now that there are more Republicans in the Senate. However, the impact of this bill would be so great that we could not afford not to work on it.”

SEPA. In the past 10 years several versions of a federal school pesticide bill have been introduced in Congress. The pest control industry has stood in opposition to most of these bills for a variety of reasons, including provisions that restrict product use and notification requirements that slow down pest management professionals’ ability to treat in a timely fashion.

In December 2009, a new version of the School Environment Protection Act (SEPA), H.R. 4159, was introduced in Congress by Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.).  If enacted the bill would “amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to require local educational agencies and schools to implement integrated pest management programs to minimize the use of pesticides in schools and to provide parents, guardians, and employees with notice of the use of pesticides in schools, and for other purposes.”

Rosenberg said the latest SEPA version contains the same problematic provisions of previous SEPA versions, as well as troubling new additions such as the establishment of a National School Integrated Pest Management Advisory Board. “It’s a board of directors in the federal government comprised of members of the activist community that would determine what could and couldn’t be used and how and when it could be used,” Rosenberg said.

NPMA also believes that adopting a federal bill would create chaos and confusion — not only among PMPs but in school districts — in states that already have some sort of school pest management law or regulatory requirement in place.
Even for PCOs that don’t treat schools this issue is important, Rosenberg says, because “once you set a standard for schools that is so unreasonable, then I think it’s reasonable to expect parents and others to say, ‘Well, if it’s impermissible to do that in a school then shouldn’t we also not do it where the kids go watch movies, or in the parks they play in, or in their homes.’ It’s a pretty slippery slope.”

BED BUG UPDATE. As the national bed bug problem continues to worsen, the federal government has taken notice.
For example, last year G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina introduced H.R. 2248, the “Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite Act of 2009.” The legislation was aimed at providing resources through grants from the Department of Commerce to state agencies that perform hotel inspections. While not a comprehensive piece of legislation, the bill’s introduction was important because it grabbed Congress’ attention. Additionally, all of the media coverage bed bugs have received in the past few years, has raised bed bug visibility and awareness.

Thus, the prospect of Congress passing a bed bug bill is not as far-fetched as previously thought. NPMA wants to ensure that any type of bed bug legislation is comprehensive and designed to address the issue head on from a variety of directions. One of the goals of Legislative Day will be for attendees to outline the nature of bed bug problems to their representatives and explore possible federal responses.

Legislative Day is sponsored by FMC Professional Solutions and co-sponsored by Dow AgroSciences.
The author is Internet editor and managing editor of PCT. He can be reached at



  • This year’s conference will be highlighted by an address from Michael Steele, chair of the Republican National Committee. Steele is the former Maryland Lieutenant Governor, an up-and-comer on the American political scene, and the newest chair of the Republican National Committee. A self-described Lincoln Republican, Steele earned a place in history in 2003 when he became the first African-American elected to statewide office in Maryland. An expert on political strategy and election reform, he most recently served as Chairman of GOPAC, and also held posts on the National Federal Election Reform Commission and the NAACP Blue Ribbon Commission on Election Reform. Steele’s experience as a successful elected conservative Republican and his engaging speaking style have launched him into national prominence.
  • Minorities in Pest Management (MPM) and the Professional Women in Pest Management Alliance (PWiPM) are sponsoring a session titled “How Your Business Can Benefit From Small Business Administration Resources.” A member from the U.S. Small Business Administration will be on hand to discuss what resources are available to PCOs, how to access them, and what will really make a difference for their business.
  • Prior to Capitol Hill visits on March 2, PCT will be recognizing this year’s Technicians of the Year during a special ceremony to be held during the Tuesday morning breakfast. This year’s Technicians of the Year are: Randy Miller, Orkin – residential category; Rob Van Willigen, Batzner Pest Management – commercial category; and Sean Young, HomeTeam Pest Defense – termite category. The awards are sponsored by BASF Pest Control Solutions.
  • To register for NPMA Legislative Day, visit www.npmapestworld.org or call 800/678-6722. Hotel reservations at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel can be made by calling 202/347-3000 and mentioning "NPMA" to receive the group rate of $262 per night.