Comedian George Carlin once said, "I have every right to complain about the government because I don't vote." What he meant was that although it seems like the opposite should be true-that those who vote are the ones who have a right to complain-he said that those who vote have no right to complain because they got what they voted for. He, on the other hand, has every right to complain since he didn't vote for the bums in the first place!

I think of this because it is trade show season and this is the 2004 Convention Companion issue. Someone from Walls & Ceilings attends pretty much every major national and regional industry trade show. The Carlin connection is that at many of these shows, association members/attendees are beginning to voice a concern: that they continue to see the same faces every year although the association works to represent everyone in the trade, whether a member or not. Likely, those not getting involved complain as much as those on the front lines. Do they have that right like Carlin's not voting?

This is a very important concept, especially in an election year: the concept is taking control of your destiny by getting involved. These folks who, say, belong to a regional association that more or less represents a particular state or group of states and are complaining-they have a right since they are the ones putting the time and effort into fighting the industry's fights. Whether it's insurance, education or any other opportunity that can benefit the industry, these men and women who are members of the associations, attending these meetings, and being active and involved in the battles contractors must wage to stay in business are fighting for all of their peers-even their competitors.

For those of you who are not members of any union, association or don't attend meetings, are you aware that your battles are being fought for you by others? My dad was a union steward for six years at Chrysler, and he pointed out that the union fought for the rights of all the company's workers: It was the union that got profit sharing, a benefit enjoyed by union and non-union employees alike. Dad said non-union guys thanked the union for that one.

But looking back at the Carlin analogy, do those who don't get involved have more right to complain than those who do? Perhaps there is some truth to his thinking when it comes to politics. After all, who knows for sure what's on the up and up? However, when it comes to the very work one does, the bread and butter, the livelihood that feeds and clothes one's family-it is everyone's obligation to be involved. There is strength in numbers and what's good for one contractor is usually good for most. Those contractors repeatedly fighting the battles have every right to show concern over the lack of fresh allies.

I urge all readers to investigate and contact some trade associations, to get involved. It's easy to complain. It's hard to get involved. It takes time, work, sometimes dealing with people you don't like ... but everything worth fighting for requires sacrifice and it can all be considered part of the path of the tradesperson.

See you at the shows.