Two more flooring industry professionals have come forward to share their thoughts on the lack of qualified installers entering the industry. Neither wanted their names or companies identified for this column, but both of them are from the Northeast, and both are named John.

The first John, a retailer, had this to say: “Undocumented immigrant workers are a big issue in our area. They’re part of a workroom and show up to a job piled five to six deep in a truck, not speaking English, and they’re getting paid almost nothing. How do we compete with that?”

He said retailers are partly to blame for not attracting more qualified labor. “Good mechanics get paid good money, but guys who aren’t part of the union are getting paid the same prices they would have been paid 25 years ago. The shortage of qualified installers is partly due to what we’re paying them. Labor prices need to go up not down, and that’s coming from a retailer.”

He realizes there are cost considerations in paying fair wages, however. “If the installers are employed full-time, you add in workman’s comp, disability insurance, etc., and it gets really expensive really quickly. I have to pay taxes, so I don’t understand how these workrooms [employing undocumented immigrants] are able to get away with it.”

One of the problems with relying on unqualified installers is they do not see any incentive in learning the standards. “When the installation starts to get really involved, they’re not going to be able to handle it. They don’t know anything about pattern matching. They don’t put latex into the seam. When they get a vinyl job they just take the roll right off the truck and put it in—they don’t bother acclimating it, and the customer wonders why the floor starts moving on the first warm day.”

The second John, an inspector, blames big boxes for “exerting a downward pressure on pay grades for installers.” He related the following example. “When I was at a workroom in the mid-‘80s, the rates were about $3.50 a square yard. Now in 2015, the workrooms are paying less than they were then. I got a call from one of them a few months back, asking if I could recommend any installers because ‘they can’t get anyone to work for them.’ I wish I was kidding.”

He added, “I have seen some great work done by guys who don’t know their value. We all need to start selling on quality, not price—so we can charge the right amount, and pay the right amount.”

Agree? Disagree? Call me at (603) 791-0215 or e-mail me and let me know your thoughts.