The Power of Associations

Robert Voltmann

At last count, there are more than 92,000 trade and professional associations in the United States. Associations employ more than 1.6 million people nationwide—with 1.2% of the private sector workforce in the U.S. working for an association. In the Washington, D.C. area alone, one in 10 workers is employed by an association. Associations generate a payroll of more than $47 billion annually, and even have their own trade association, the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE).

The U.S. has a long history of active associations. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that, “Congress shall make no law … prohibiting … the right of the people … to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

With right to peaceably assemble and petition for redress, Americans have long formed associations. The French historian Alexis De Tocqueville wrote in Democracy in America (1835), that “the art of joining” in voluntary associations is the “fundamental science” of democracy. He further explained “Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all minds” learned how to guard against such democratic perils as excessive individualism, the tyranny of the majority, and the stifling effects of administrative centralization simply by “constantly joining together in groups.” He also wrote about the spirit of giving and the role of philanthropy in America—other important aspects of associations and their members. James Madison, Father of the Constitution and fourth U.S. President, wrote that associations act as countervailing powers to government.

We see this when businesses and individuals pull together in support of (or opposition to) an issue. TIA, OOIDA, and ATA recently objected to a trial lawyers’ proposal to require FMCSA to publish raw CSA data again. While they did not say it in so many words (we did it for them), they wanted this to make it easier to sue in truck accidents. TIA, OOIDA, and ATA prevailed; at least for now.

Trade associations, however, are more than just advocates. They establish best practices—like TIA’s Carrier Selection Frame Work and the Certified Transportation Broker designation. They conduct research to help you better run and protect your business—like TIA’s Compensation Survey and 3PL Market Report, and white papers like TIA’s Best Practices for Running a Brokerage Within a Carrier Operation. They offer webinars, distance learning, on-site training, and opportunities for you to get together with your peers. They even develop discounts on products and services that you need.

All successful trade associations keep their eyes and actions keenly focused on their mission. At TIA, our mission is to help you grow and protect your businesses in service to your customers. We see a very exciting, dynamic, and growing future for the industry. We appreciate your continued commitment as members. We commit our support to helping you as staff.