Page 20: of Maritime Reporter Magazine (March 1991)
A WO ANNUAL
By Joseph Farrell, President
American Waterways Operators
On May 22, 1944, the Certificate of Incorporation of The American
Waterways Operators was filed with the Secretary of State of Delaware.
It asserted, among other things, that
AWO's purpose was, "To promote harmonious and friendly coopera- tion among all waterway operators; and gather and disseminate infor- mation for their benefit." Later the certificate proclaimed in a flourish of admirable bravado that, "The
Corporation (AWO) shall have per- petual existence." These extracts from its charter give the reader some idea of why AWO was formed.
However, reading the charter and first minutes of AWO meetings re- grettably yield no real insights into
AWO's early persona. Its true char- acter is obscured by the stiff and formal business prose of those times.
I have thought a great deal about today's AWO, now a national trade association which would indeed be unrecognizable to its founders. I'd like to share my thoughts about
AWO with you.
The association is well respected, we are told. It has built a considera- ble record for effectiveness. It keeps its eye on the dollar, not spending foolishly. It jealously guards staying lean, relying on teamwork, creativi- ty and determination to succeed. All rather admirable qualities, I think.
But what is more important to know is what animates today's AWO, what gives it its cachet.
The first quality which sets AWO apart is the extraordinary involve- ment of its members. Members pos- sess remarkable knowledge of the issues enabling them to provide
AWO with its essential direction through informed decision making, and consistently constructive over- sight. AWO's future well-being is insured because its members are heavily invested in that future.
Just four examples of recent events illustrate clearly that mem- ber involvement.
In 1990, ten of the association's senior leaders spent months gather- ing and analyzing information which has produced a strategic plan which charts the way for at least the early years of the decade. Another group of leaders have put their mark on the largest membership cam- paign in AWO's history, a two-year effort with an ambitious goal of bringing 50 members on board.
And, side by side with these ac- complishments is an unprecedented program designed to assist the De- partment of Transportation ... at the department's request ... as it embarks on conducting studies and promulgating new regulations spelled out in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. Fully 51 AWO members are working in eight small groups, each one set up to produce a comprehen- sive report necessary for issue reso- lution.
Anyone would agree that all this represents astonishing member in- volvement!
Taking on the tough ones, head on, is another AWO trait. For exam- ple, the association in early January approved and adopted a guiding set of environmental principles that state, in part, "AWO members are dedicated to continually improving operations in an effort to eliminate environmental incidents and to re- duce environmental hazards to an absolute minimum."
The association is completely committed to policies and practices which will maximize marine safety and environmental protection.
These principles solidify and articu- late that commitment within the barge and towing industry. Just as importantly, they let the American people know that our industry wel- comes public attention to our per- formance, and that our member companies have seized the initiative to do better.
The principles emphasize preven- tion, responsibility, safety, training, cooperation, and environmental stew- ardship. Our goal is zero environ- mental incidents, coupled with the economic viability of our industry.
A strong industry with a solid envi- ronmental reputation is our intent.
Another example. "We are simply spilling too much oil in the water."
So said AWO's witness before the
June meeting of the National Acad- emy of Sciences Marine Board on hull construction issues relating to oil spill prevention. Members of the audience of engineers, scientists and professional ship managers, startled by the candor of that statement, lat- er proclaimed AWO's testimony ". . . the most objective we've heard."
That kind of candor has become a hallmark of this association.
Yet another. Two years ago AWO, speaking for inland carriers and re- sponding to inquiries from Senators putting together a Federal drought relief bill, said that the industry did not want to be included in the relief bill. "You don't go to the govern- ment for a handout when things get tough," said inland barge line exec- utives. [An official of the Associa- tion of American Railroads, corre- sponding with AWO after reading a news account of this incident wrote, "This rivals the biblical dream of the lions lying down with the lambs!"] Finally, in the waning days of the 101st Congress, Senators and
Congressmen received letters from
AWO's members which asked them to " . . . support Coast Guard user fees of $10 million to $12 million."
The letters said that the industry doesn't like asking for user fees but "... we expect to do our fair share in reducing the Federal deficit."
Doing what is right ... a second trait of AWO . . . has built for the industry's national trade association a reputation of incalculable value.
Gaining and preserving the trust of
Federal officials opens wide the doors of success.
There are seemingly a hundred reasons why a venture cannot work,
Thomas A. Allegretti
Issue advocacy is the heart and soul of what a trade association does. A good trade association effec- tively promotes policies and pro- grams which are beneficial to its members' interests, and it protects and defends its members from gov- ernmental initiatives which are harmful or senseless. At its essence, that is why companies voluntarily elect to belong to a trade associa- tion, and fund it with monies that could otherwise be funneled directly back into a company's bottom line.
The return which trade association members expect on this investment is professional and effective issue advocacy.
There is nothing terribly new about this. The relationship be- tween a trade association and its members, and the expectations that generally accompany membership, have been in place for many years.
But there is something fresh about the modern criteria which define or should not even be tried. But
AWO always searches for that one way that will produce a victory. For example, in the lengthy and emo- tion-filled debates leading up to the
Oil Pollution Act of 1990, AWO scored on behalf of the industry by sending Members of Congress a technical plan view of a coastal and an inland barge, alongside a plan view of the huge ... by comparison . . . Exxon Valdez. Sometimes a pic- ture really is worth a thousand words!
We also improved the painful
Coast Guard user fee package some- what by blanketing Congress with our press release on the industry losing millions of dollars because of the steep rise in diesel fuel prices after Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Finding the way. Taking sensible, manageable risks. A third character- istic of AWO. There is no doubt that recent years have been extraordi- narily challenging. Though the fu- ture is always somewhat hidden in the mists, I expect no letup in the challenges. But as long as our mem- bers maintain a hold on AWO's affairs, as long as we preserve our reputation for telling it as it really is, and as long as we fuel our efforts with large doses of ingenuity, AWO will continue to flourish. effective advocacy. In the not too distant past, a trade association could evaluate its success by the special interests of its members, and the extent to which federal laws and regulations promoted or con- strained those special interests.
That no longer is, nor should be, the sole measure of effective advocacy and a successful trade association.
The contemporary yardstick by which trade associations should be judged is much more complex. It includes the special interest meas- ure as only one piece of a larger mosaic. And, that mosaic is largely defined by a broader vision and a longer range perspective. AWO tries to pursue its advocacy with the fed- eral government with that vision and perspective in mind.
A modern outreach program to the federal government—the Con- gress and the Executive Branch— must be grounded by an overriding principle of honesty and integrity in an association's work. Credibility is the keystone of effective issue work.
Sometimes a modern advocacy program will result in industry posi- tions which do not return to the members the maximum economic advantage that would result from a position which is hammered out with the special interest criterion as the driving force. AWO understands the allure of special interest advoca- cy. But we believe the cost it bears—diminished credibility and (continued)
A New Approach To Issue Advocacy
By Thomas A. Allegretti, Vice President, Operations
American Waterways Operators
March, 1991 21