Pushed Through in 2022 to Break Free in 2023: AASP/MA’s Momentum Continues

by Alana Quartuccio Bonillo

Surely, 2022 will be a year to remember for the Massachusetts auto body world. A year that set the foundation for positive change for repairers and consumers, as the work of AASP/MA (or the “Alliance,” the association’s fitting moniker, which defines its allied forces) over these past 12 months has prepared collision repairers to “break free in 2023” in the hopes of making the upcoming year one for the history books.

“We made GREAT strides over the last two years regarding the labor rate issue, all thanks to the efforts everyone has put in,” reflects AASP/MA Executive Director Lucky Papageorg. “The labor rate bill went further than any other has ever gone before.”

Unfortunately, the bill didn’t make it to a vote, and an attempt to raise the insurer-controlled/suppressed labor rate reimbursement rate from $40 to $55 through Section 110 of the Governor’s Economic Development Bill failed to move forward.

Mere days before the midterm elections, the legislature elected NOT to pursue any of the “outside sections,” including Section 110, in an effort to get the main body of the Governor’s Economic Development Bill through before the end of the year.

Despite the outcome of the Governor’s Economic Bill, AASP/MA has no intention of sitting still and will continue to push forward.

It’s been a positive year from day one. It started with the “Alliance” generating impressive strides on the legislative front. Over 90 legislators signed on in support of two bills which AASP/MA brought forth – a bill to establish a minimum reimbursement labor rate and a second bill that would move the Auto Damage Appraisal Licensing Board (ADALB) from the Division of Insurance to the Division of Occupational Licensure.

Support for the bills alone was a tremendous accomplishment, but Papageorg points out how that support goes even further.

“We created relationships with key legislators, and we raised their awareness of the issues facing not just the collision repair industry, but also the consumers in our state,” adds Papageorg. “Legislators are now aware of the ramifications of how a suppressed labor reimbursement rate and the poor handling of claims by the ADALB affects consumers.”

The “Alliance” set out to make certain their message was being heard by all.

They definitely achieved this goal on May 18, 2022 when over 300 collision repair professionals closed their shops to make the trek over to the Capitol steps on Beacon Hill to create some noise about the labor reimbursement rate bill. It was quite the day to remember as hundreds chanted, “Raise the rate now!” carrying signs that boldly displayed the clear message, “Save lives, save jobs, save an industry!”

“This really was a huge event,” Papageorg says, stressing the amount of attention it raised. “We really hope to continue that awareness. We had media attention locally, such as the Boston Globe, as well as nationally. We hope to continue to get more and more exposure.”

Papageorg points to the successful Labor Rate Study Commision hearings where dozens of members came forward to give testimony.

The association achieved local and national attention, and the bill went as far as it could possibly go with a recommended “ought to pass.”

Although the formal session concluded this summer without further movement of the labor reimbursement bill or the bill to move the ADALB, things did not officially come to a standstill when it comes to the $40 suppressed labor reimbursement rate issue. The Alliance’s hard work brought national attention to the Commonwealth having the lowest rate in the country and local legislators backed the addition of language to the pending Governor’s Economic Bill that would raise the labor reimbursement rate to $55.

“Anything that didn’t make it through this year, we will look to promote next year,” confirms Papageorg of the association’s continuous efforts. “We won’t be starting from scratch. We will be that much further ahead. There will be some changes likely in the legislature after the midterm elections, and we plan to educate new legislators who come in, but we will be miles ahead of where we had been before.”

“These achievements are not just due to the association and its Board of Directors,” continued Papageorg. “We’ve accomplished so much through the whole-hearted participation of the membership. They were called upon to make calls and do their outreach, and they really came through.”

While members of the association have been hearing the call of the “Alliance,” consumers are listening as well.

AASP/MA found yet another way to get their message to the motoring public. In the past, they’ve taken to the radio waves with appearances on “Everything Auto with Mike Penacho” on WSAR. The association has launched its very own TV program, Auto Sense, on BCAM. The cable access program sets out to help vehicle owners better understand the claims process, why their vehicle needs to be repaired correctly and returned to pre-accident condition and how insurers are avoiding responsibility.

Many cable stations across the Commonwealth are picking up the program. Episodes are available on YouTube (bit.ly/Auto_Sense).

“The show is helping to raise awareness of the issues consumers face when they experience an accident and also makes them aware of what they need to know to ensure they are getting a safe and proper repair,” explains Papageorg.

Four episodes have already aired, and two more are ready to roll out. Papageorg says there are more in the works, and it’s exciting to see more stations pick up the program as the new year gets underway. Contact your local station to request they add it to the programming in your area. (Visit bit.ly/ask4AutoSense to find contact info for your local station.)

Papageorg reminds all to send in ideas for topics they can address on the show. Feedback from the audience is key in helping to make the program a success.

The “Alliance” closed out 2022 with a successful general membership meeting that focused on ways repairers can “take back their business” as the association leads them toward “breaking free in 2023.”

“Now that Covid is more or less in our rear-view mirror, the association plans to return to quarterly chapter meetings as we hope to get people back to meeting face-to-face on a regular basis once again. Creating camaraderie and a support network is key to our success.”

High on the list of priorities for AASP/MA is to address “the failure that is the ADALB to function properly and enforce the rules and regulations they are supposed to.” Their efforts to see that the ADALB is moved out from under the clutches of the Division of Insurance will continue into the new year.

Papageorg anticipates 2023 will bring new faces and therefore new ideas to the association as the AASP/MA Board of Directors elections take place this month.

Every initiative AASP/MA pushed for in 2022 was a step in the right direction. Every undertaking has been considered a win. They have proven what strength in numbers can do as an “Alliance.” AASP/MA is in an excellent position to carry that momentum and break free in 2023. Now is not the time to sit back and wait; now is the time to continue to push forward! Stay tuned as so much more is in store and yet to come.

Want more? Check out the December 2022 issue of New England Automotive Report!