The Ukraine-Russia War Brings Heartbreak and Potential Business Woes

Denis Pundik was born in the Soviet Union in 1977, 14 years before its dissolution in 1991. He’s the owner of Cape Cod Tint Guy in Cape Cod, Mass. But with family and connections in Ukraine, his mind wanders beyond film after Russia’s February 24 invasion.

Denis Pundik’s school photo at 10 years old.

“I spoke with my buddy, and his wife has a sister who’s hiding in a bunker with two children,” says Pundik, who immigrated to Brooklyn, N.Y., at 11 years old. “It’s a different perspective … It’s worries, prayers, and heartbreak.”

Pundik was born in what is now known as Kharkiv, Ukraine, which has been subject to deadly attacks. “Ukraine was a place of birth, but Russia was a neighbor and a friend. It’s awful—current events will separate many people and make unnecessary enemies. I feel saddened by the whole thing.”

Kos Vyn was born in Dnipro, Ukraine, in 1995, four years after the Soviet Union’s dissolution. He moved to Albany, N.Y., with his mother in 2008, where he picked up tinting. Vyn is now the owner of Dark Zero Motors in Jonesboro, Ga.

Kos Vyn as a child in Ukraine.

“The rest of my family is in Ukraine—my grandfather, aunt, and cousin,” Vyn says. “My cousin recently gave birth to a baby boy.”

More than 500,000 people have fled Ukraine since the war’s onset, according to ABC News. Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in early 2014, a precursor for today’s conflict.

“It progressing into something like this—I don’t have anger. It’s more sadness,” Vyn adds. “Knowing I have family there, and there’s a potential chance of death. That’s the end goal of the war—death. There is a lot of worry and sadness.”

Tinting is an escape for many, and Pundik is no exception. The 12-year industry veteran, whose business is 90% automotive, finds his groove while working. Pop and techno hits keep the film star moving.

“It relaxes me,” Pundik explains. “I like to be challenged; each car is different every single time. Some people get frustrated and throw things around. I take my time, I’m by myself, nobody’s stressing me out, and I have the music going.”

Tinting calms Denis Pundik.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the global supply chain and material costs. Unfortunately, the war looks to worsen the situation.

“Our industry has a petroleum-based element to it,” says Patric Fransko, owner of Window Film Pros in Newport Beach, Calif. “When you see crude oil go up significantly, it will impact the raw polyester and petroleum-based products used in our industry. You can carry that for a while if it’s a temporary blip in pricing. But if that stays higher in the long term, it will have a pricing implication for our industry.”

International benchmark Brent crude hit a high of $107.57 per barrel, a price last seen in July 2014, just a few months after Russia’s initial invasion of the Crimean Peninsula. There are many uncertainties, but the industry demonstrated grit during several new COVID variants over the past two years.

“We wouldn’t have known going into the dawn of COVID that it would be a solid 18 months of business for people in the window film industry,” Fransko adds.

Material prices may climb, and the supply chain may falter further, but the human impact is most tragic. Pundik’s friend traveled to Kharkiv for a business trip in November, a time when 2022’s violence seemed outlandish.

“He was like, ‘They did some amazing work,’” Pundik says. “‘Upscale parks for kids, hotels, restaurants, and churches. People are putting heart and soul into building up this city.’ I said, ‘I’m going with you on your next trip.’ That might never happen now.”

New Year, New Me: Film Shops Rev Up 2022 Resolutions

The New Year dawns in 10 days, delivering a fresh calendar full of potential. With 2021 winding down, industry members are reminiscing on past accomplishments and reciting resolutions for the future. 23-year veteran Nipsy Mitch Goldman, owner of Tegridy Tint in Marrero, La., is focused on family for 2022.

Goldman aims to train his son in 2022.

“I’ve been bringing my son to work the past few months,” Goldman says. “I’m trying to teach him because he just graduated high school. All the time I’ve spent in shops—I’ve never spent enough time with him to push him. That’s one thing that hurts me because I spent most of his life working. I don’t want him to be like that with his children whenever he has children.” Goldman says passing on industry knowledge and teaching his son how to tint would be his “biggest accomplishment.”

40-year veteran Mel Villalon of Paradise Tinting in Long Beach, Calif., will hone in on a new segment of business in 2022.

“Anti-vandalism film is going to blow up,” Villalon says. “I’m going to do more elevator work and restrooms. There’s miles and miles of stainless steel that needs to be protected or finished.”

John Little owns All Pro Window Tinting in Decatur, Texas, with his brother Jason and has been in the industry since 1990. He plans to lean on the shoulders of others during the next 12 months.

Little looks to share responsibility in 2022.

“At my age, and my body breaking down, especially with getting COVID, a good goal that I would like to [pursue] is to step back, run the business, deal with customers, answer the phone and have somebody else do the physical work,” John Little says. “For many years, we’ve [had] a mindset where we want all the money. Now we’re realizing we wish we had trained people and brought people up under our wings to work for us.”

Melody Champagne, owner of Champagne Window Tinting in Roswell, Ga., is new to the industry, but she’s still shooting for the stars as January approaches. She plans to “work with the champagne theme and give it a modern, classy look where you can tell how much work I put into the place.”

Champagne plans to grow her brand throughout the New Year.

Many strive for more in the New Year, but it’s essential to step back, take a deep breath and reflect on accomplishments in the previous one.

“Hand-cutting was hard for me at first,” Champagne says. “When I started working at a dealership, I didn’t have anybody to teach me. I had to be self-taught, and I had to be able to talk to other people who have done it, too.”

For some, growth was found within.

“I haven’t been a confident person for a long time in my life,” says Jordan ‘Shady Jay’ Jernigan, main installer and shop manager at Luxury Window Tinting in Greenbrier, Ark. “This past year, for personal growth, has been a huge milestone. I’ve grown to appreciate myself more and have more confidence in myself than I’ve ever had. It’s let me be more of myself than I’ve ever been.”

Female Film Stars Find Voice for 2022

The women of the film industry will kick off 2022 with a different form of customized artistry. Prominent female film stars will ring in the new year by launching a calendar titled the Women of Automotive Film. Ten women comprise the calendar’s pages.

“I want to bring light to [the fact] that there are females in this male-dominated industry,” says Liz Lasa of Artistic Window Tinting in Yuba City, Calif., who is also known as ‘Window Tinting Queen.’ “Hopefully, it brings light to other females that want to get into our industry—to promote that it’s open to males and females.”

Each month after January 2022 features photos of a different industry professional:

Luanna Souzza of Tint Pro in Sunrise, Fla.

January 2022 (All 10 women)

February 2022 (Melody Champagne, owner of Champagne Window Tinting in Roswell, Ga.)

March 2022 (Amber Bailey, vehicle wrapper)

April 2022 (Luanna Souzza of Tint Pro in Sunrise, Fla.)

May 2022 (TBD)

June 2022 (Julia Collins of Kaloko Tinting in Kona, Hawaii)

July 2022 (Julieta Moreno of Boss Lady Window Tint in Katy, Texas)

August 2022 (Cheyanne Kahele, owner of Kaloko Tinting in Kona, Hawaii)

September 2022 (Erika Gare, wrap artist)

October 2022 (Raphael Love, owner of Love’s Mobile Tinting LLC)

November 2022 (Amber Renea, owner/technician at Revamped Rides LLC in Blue Springs, Mo.)

December 2022 (Liz Lasa of Artistic Window Tinting in Yuba City, Calif.)

Lasa represents December 2022 in the calendar.

“I do all of the automotive film where I work,” Kahele says. “I’m sweating and in T-shirts and shoes all day. I was looking forward to taking nice pictures, getting pretty, getting all glammed up and feeling good about myself. Because I don’t get to do that—I’ve got three kids, have my own business and [I’m] trying to build a house.”

Wrap artist Gare’s goal aligns with other women in the group. “I wanted to be a part of the calendar to connect with other women in the industry,” Gare says. “To inspire other women to embrace themselves for who they are and not just who they think they should be working in a male-dominated industry.”

Calendar feedback has far exceeded expectations for Champagne. “I think we all have something in common,” Champagne says. “I think we’re all tomboys in a way. It’s a great way for us to express that. I didn’t know what would come of it. I’m sure they probably didn’t know what would come of it. Now, here we are making a calendar.”

Kahele echoed Champagne, citing a notable character trait as common ground for the group.

“The more I’ve been learning about us, I think the biggest thing we have in common is perseverance,” adds Kahele. “There are so many things that we’ve each overcome in our own lives—personal and work. These ladies are so strong.”

The group has discovered a voice that the community continues to amplify. Renea says, “I hope that it shows all sides of us—not just sweating in big T-shirts tinting cars. We’re still feminine, too.”

Women of Automotive Film is slated to release later this month.

White House Launches Supply Chain Dashboard

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., handle 40% of containerized imports entering the United States. Typically, only a few container ships are “at anchor,” waiting to dock. On October 29, there were 75 waiting for their turn. Addressing these concerns, the White House is launching a Supply Chain Dashboard to turn the tide in the country’s favor. Will it be enough? Supply chain expert Lisa Anderson, MBA, CSCP, CLTD, president of LMA Consulting Group Inc., predicts supply chain disruption will continue beyond 2024.

“The supply chain disruption is real and will last for quite some time,” Anderson says. “Let’s look at the ‘why’ of the disruption. If you remove industry nuances, there are three main causes of the disruption. The first cause is labor. The pandemic exacerbated the ongoing drain of skilled ‘boomer’ workers, many of whom took early retirement. The pandemic also caused workers to reassess their priorities. That resulted in people deciding that they didn’t like their industry or job or their boss. This has manifested into what many are calling the Great Resignation. Manufacturing, transportation, distribution, none of these industries are exempt. And, most of these industries affect the consumer, who has felt the supply chain pinch the worst.”

Anderson is correct—no industry is exempt. From Carrolton, Ga., to Singapore to San Marcos, Texas, the window film industry has its hands full. Perhaps The White House’s new Supply Chain Dashboard will help companies stay up-to-date. The dashboard will be updated bi-weekly, tracking port progress in Los Angeles, Long Beach and more. The administration partially attributes the high number of ships at anchor on October 29 to consumer demand for goods and delta-related port and factory shutdowns in Asia. Tracking ships at anchor, cumulative import volume and retail inventories, the Biden-Harris Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force aims “to act as an honest broker to encourage companies, workers, and others to stop finger-pointing and start collaborating.”

Anderson’s company, LMA Consulting Group, works with manufacturers and distributors on strategy during these puzzling times. She says the most expensive reason for supply chain disruptions is a shortage of equipment in various sectors, including construction, farming, food processing and technology. What is the end game—is there one?

“It all comes down to creating a never-ending supply chain circle, almost like the supply chain is chasing its proverbial tail,” Anderson adds. “I don’t see that this is easily solvable by initiating new laws or enticing workers with more money. Sure, it can help, but it’s not an easy fix. It will take recognizing that there may be no new normal. Essentially, the supply chain will be in a constant state of evolution. The successful manufacturers will be adaptive, resilient and forward-thinking as they respond to changes in demand and recognize an ever-evolving supply chain.”

California Clamps Down on 1099 Contractors

California often serves as a bellwether for legislation that is slowly adopted in other states throughout the country and an Assembly Bill could have serious implications for window film and paint protection film companies that subcontract work to installers as independent (1099) contractors.

Assembly Bill 5 chapter 26, if passed would amend section 3351 and to add section 2750.3 to the state’s Labor Code, as well as amend sections 606.5 and 621 of the Unemployment Insurance Code, which relates to employment. Filed by the Secretary of State and approved by the Governor on September 18, 2019, amendments clarify requirements for “the relationship between a contractor and an individual performing work.” As COVID-19 continues to spread across the country, leaving many out of work, issues of worker misclassification remain, legislative officials say. According to the California Legislature, the labor code bill was amended on November 18, 2019.

Employees and Independent Contractors

Based on the state’s 2018 Supreme Court unanimous decision, in Dynamex Operations West Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, a worker is an employee unless a hiring entity satisfies a three-factor test.

“In its decision, the Court cited the harm to misclassified workers who lose significant workplace protections, the unfairness to employers who must compete with companies that misclassify, and the loss to the state of needed revenue from companies that use misclassification to avoid obligations such as payment of payroll taxes, payment of premiums for workers’ compensation, Social Security, unemployment, and disability insurance,” a portion of the amended bill reads.

The amended bill noted the misclassification of workers as independent contractors served as a main factor in the rise in income inequality. According to the amended bill, one of the main goals is to ensure workers who are currently being misclassified as independent contractors have the “basic rights and protections they deserve under the law,” which, according to the bill, includes: a minimum wage, workers’ compensation if they are injured on the job, unemployment insurance, paid sick leave, and paid family leave.

“By codifying the California Supreme Court’s landmark, unanimous Dynamex decision, this Act restores these important protections to potentially several million workers who have been denied these basic workplace rights that all employees are entitled to under the law,” a portion of the amended bill reads.

In 2017, California’s Employment Development Department Tax Audit Program conducted 7,937 audits and investigations, resulting in assessments totaling $249,981,712, and identified nearly half a million unreported employees. Recent research also supports misclassification and finds some of the highest rates are in the economy’s growth industries.

Labor Code

Several items were added to the state’s Labor Code in association with the Assembly Bill. According to the Labor Code, a person providing labor or services for remuneration shall be considered an employee, rather than an independent contractor, unless the hiring entity demonstrates that all of the following three conditions are satisfied:

  1. The person is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact;
  2. The person performs work that is outside of the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
  3. The person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

If a Court rules that the three conditions are unable to be applied, then the employee or independent contractor determination shall “instead be governed by the 1989 California Supreme Court’s decision in S. G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations.”

According to the amended bill, “the determination of whether an individual is an employee or independent contractor shall be governed by Borello if the hiring entity demonstrates factors,” including the individual maintaining a business location and having the ability to set or negotiate rates for performed services.

Starting on July 1, 2020, any individual who is deemed an employee must be covered by workers’ compensation insurance, as noted in the amended bill.