For the past year you might have noticed I have hauled my soapbox into the Town Square, climbed on top and proceeded to raise a stink; maybe you didn’t notice. I know one of the mills was not happy with my last column…. too damn bad! Stick around, ‘cause I ain’t done yet.

Why? I look around at the state of the world today; the wars, the economy, the environment, and I feel pretty small. I mean, what can I do? This is maybe one place where I can make a difference, somehow help to turn around this mess that the carpet industry has become. I know, I hear ya, “Whoa Hetts are you nuts? No one person can do that.” Yes you are right; no one person can do it alone, but we can do it! Everyone in the carpet industry is affected by the current state of installation. Installers can’t make a decent living, retailers can’t find qualified help, consumers have trouble getting proper installation, and if it keeps up the mills won’t have anyone to install their products. It’s a big problem.

So what can you do? Back to letters to the mill presidents; send them! If every one of you sent a letter to the mill presidents telling them….Hell, I don’t care what you tell them. Tell them the problems with patterns. Tell how hard it is to make a living installing carpet. Tell them the problems with cheap labor. Tell them they are doing fine (if you believe that). Like I said, I don’t care what you tell them (be nice!). Let them know you are out there and you don’t like the way things are. Why should you do it?  

Let me ask you couple of questions. Do you want to provide your family with proper health care? Do you want to give your children the opportunity to succeed, not work as hard as you have had to? Do you want to retire with dignity? Do you want to be able to retire period? What about this scenario: Your son says to you, “Pop, I want to be a marine biologist.” What’s your response? “Well, if he wants it bad enough he’ll find a way.”  What about when your baby girl says, “Daddy, I want to be a doctor.” Are you just going to shrug and say, “Well baby, maybe you can waitress at Bob’s until a good man comes along to take care of you.” No knock on waitress; they are hard-working girls, and it is an honorable profession. Starting to get an idea where I’m going?

This trade is dying there are less and less young people learning it. You take a young guy out of high school who doesn’t want to, or can’t afford to go to college and ask him if he wants to become a carpet installer. He says hmm tell me about it. If you are truthful you will respond (except for the union), “Well, there are long hours and low pay, no benefits, no retirement, no respect, and a good chance you will be a cripple by the time you are fifty.” Followed by his look of astonishment he may respond with something like “I think Mickey D’s is hiring.”

There is supposed to be the first meeting of the concerned parties to establish the ANSI standards, probably about the time you are reading this, before Christmas 2007. The concerned parties will be the mills, retail organizations like WFCA, installation organizations like the Unions and CFI, and Carpet and Rug institute, for example. How long will it take? I don’t know, kind of depends on how serious everyone is and how willing they are to put aside personal agendas and work for the betterment of the industry. Let’s hope this is not another round of blah, blah, blah; we had a conference and nothing got done. I will do my best to keep you posted as best I can.

In the mean time, get off your butt and send some letters let them know you are out there and you care. Either write your own or download the one I wrote from the FCI Web site (www.fcimag.com), or the CFI website (www.cfiinstallers.com).

The mill presidents’ names and addresses are listed below. It’s going to take all of us to turn this thing around. As installers you have the most to gain. If this thing gets turned around, and proper standards and qualified installers are required to install the products, you will earn a better standard of living. You really need to get involved. I mean after all we are talking about you fighting for your living….or is it really fighting for your life?

Jeffrey Lorberbaum, CEO
Mohawk Industries
508 East Morris Street
Dalton, GA 30721

Monte Thornton, President
Mohawk Industries
508 East Morris Street
Dalton, GA 30721

Vance Bell, CEO
Shaw Industries
PO Drawer 2128
Dalton, GA 30722-2128

Randy Merritt, President
Shaw Industries
PO Drawer 2128
Dalton, GA 30722-2128

Carl Bouckaert, CEO
Beaulieu of America
Box 1248
Dalton, GA 30722

Ralph Boe, President
Beaulieu of America
Box 1248
Dalton, GA 30722