Volume 49, Issue 4 - April 2014


Glass Industry Sees No Easy Solution for Immigration Reform
Immigration reform has been a topic of hot debate for many years now, both in Congress and in those industries where immigrants make up a significant number of laborers. And for many in the glass industry, renewed discussions on immigration are a good start but only if they proceed to some course of action.

“I’m pleased that our government is actually considering doing something about it finally,” says Dan Pompeo of Architectural Glazing Solutions, a manufacturers’ representative based in San Diego. “If and when this gets done is another matter.”

Southwestern manufacturers especially recognize that there is no simple solution to how this must be addressed.

“Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to immigration reform, especially here in Arizona,” says Jason Funk, president of Western Window Solutions in Phoenix. “On the one hand, you have to keep the economic best interests of Arizonans in mind. On the other, you can’t ignore the needs of families, maintaining dignity and respect for those who are already in our state, and the fact that this country is a pretty great place to live. We need solutions that work for everyone.”

The problem is that, within the glass industry, as within Congress, those solutions differ.

“Personally, I feel it’s got be an all-or-nothing solution,” Pompeo shares. “This means either seriously block our borders with our country’s armed forces, which would put an end to the endless line of illegal entry to our country, or start expediting the citizenship process where illegal aliens who are here currently or by a designated start date can be screened thoroughly and approved. Then the countless number of illegals will be made to pay their own state and federal taxes, healthcare and social security, just like all legal U.S. citizens must do.”

However, within the construction and manufacturing industries the immigration discussion gets especially complex, as these industries often rely on immigrants for labor. Within the glass industry, this problem is somewhat less prevalent than in general construction given the specialized skills generally required, but it is still evident. As glass fabricators and installers see an industry-wide shortage of skilled laborers, the debate becomes especially complex.

“Many industries have difficulty finding qualified workers,” Funk points out. Within his manufacturing facility, the company has put in place practices that he says have helped attract qualified laborers. “We attribute our success in recruiting to a company culture that promotes new ideas, being the best and partnering with others. That, and treating them the way we would want to be treated, goes a long way in not just hiring, but retaining the kind of team that you can rely on and be proud of,” Funk says.

Pompeo sees the general shortage of qualified laborers as a problem with the newest generation of U.S.-born workers, rather than immigrants.

“Today’s working class appears to prefer to collect unemployment rather than start at ground level and work their way up. On the other hand, illegal aliens typically cannot speak English, and [generally] arrive with little or no money, but they have one huge attribute over a lot of today’s U.S. new generation of working class: a willingness to learn and do what it takes. Maybe as an industry we can create more trade schools to offer and better prepare and train today’s working class,” Pompeo says.

—Megan Headley

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