When the private sector does not address a major issue, the public sector will often step into the vacuum and do it. The construction industry has been slow to embrace the principles of social responsibility and sustainable value, focusing instead on whatever it takes to be lowest bidder. As a consequence of this, government is adopting policies that reshape the rules for the industry.

There’s almost nothing partisan or ideological about trying to stop companies from cheating taxpayers and their workers, which is exactly what happens when some firms misclassify their employees. As our readers know, worker misclassification happens when a company pretends its employees are subcontractors with the intent of avoiding payroll taxes and benefits like health insurance. Unions call it “payroll fraud.” Many of us just call it cheating, plain and simple.

The fact that this is a bipartisan issue became extra clear this past week following our report on new efforts in the Texas Legislature to try to rein in the practice, which has rightly been called “a scourge” and “a cancer” in the construction industry. It happens in other industries as well but it is especially rampant in construction.

Previous legislative attempts to deal with this in Texas have had mixed success. Now, a new bill has been filed in the Texas House.    Read more » about Conservatives and Liberals Alike Embrace Efforts to Crack Down on Worker Misclassification in Texas

Far too often, construction companies cheat taxpayers and their workers by pretending their employees are independent subcontractors when, by law, they should be paid as employees. It’s a practice known as worker misclassification. Some ethical contractors have called it a “cancer that is eating at the heart of our industry.”

If a person is paid as a subcontractor, that individual is on the hook for payroll taxes and benefits like health insurance. When they’re injured, uninsured workers are often dropped off at county hospitals and the rest of us end up paying more in health costs and local property taxes.

In Construction Citizen’s Special Report, “Thrown Away People,” our team outlined many of the problems presented to society by the degradation of the employer – employee relationship. The McClatchy Newspaper chain this year followed up with a powerful series called “Contract to Cheat,” which took another in-depth look at the problem.    Read more » about Bill Filed to Crack Down on Worker Misclassification in Texas Construction Industry

ImmigrationWorks USA held a national conference call to discuss President Obama's announcement of an executive action that will grant work permits to up to 4 million unauthorized immigrants – primarily parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents – who will now be allowed to remain in the U.S. legally.

Joining the call were members of the IW legal advisory team to discuss the policy and what it means for you.   Read more » about What Employers Need to Know about Obama's Executive Action

The following was originally published as an op-ed in The Houston Chronicle.  Reprinted with permission.

Now that the election is over, political news has quickly become dominated by the impending immigration showdown between President Barack Obama and the Republicans on Capitol Hill.  In my opinion as an employer, the president's intent to use an executive order to extend legal status to millions of undocumented people in our country is simply misunderstood.  To the tea party, it is amnesty.  To the faith community, it represents compassion.  As a practical matter, it's just a reflection of reality.

Two years ago, in the face of congressional inaction, Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which has become commonly known as the administrative DREAM Act.  This gave foreign-born children who illegally entered the country before their 18th birthday an opportunity to seek legal status, granting them the right to work.  But it wasn't just given out like candy, as some suggest.  These young people who were brought here through no fault of their own had to pass a criminal background check, pay $485, and the whole process has to be repeated every two years.   Read more » about Obama’s Plan for Executive Order on Immigration Reflects Reality

Houston, Texas — This week several conservative and business leaders in Texas called on the Texas delegation to work toward passing meaningful immigration reform in Congress as soon as possible. Participating in Wednesday’s event were Norman Adams, Texans for Sensible Immigration Policy, Pat Kiley, CEO of Kiley Advisors and former Director of Associated General Contractors, Charles Foster of Foster law firm and Greater Houston Partnership, Darlene East, President of Holes Inc., Kevin Carroll, Gringos Mexican Kitchen franchisee, and Alan Nash attorney retired from Mitchell Energy (Republican Delegate).

"We need Congressional legislation to fix our broken immigration system. An executive order will likely address less than 20% of undocumented immigrants. We need a modern immigration system that drives our economy rather than ignores it.” said Norman Adams, Texans for Sensible Immigration Policy.   Read more » about More Than 100 Texas Business Owners Urge Republicans in Congress to Pass Immigration Reform Now

Following concerns raised here on Construction Citizen by contractors in Austin, the Austin Community College Board of Trustees has decided to create a task force to hammer out new rules for construction under a proposed $386 million bond.

The ACC board was planning to move ahead with the new rules when Associated General Contractors Austin President Phil Thoden wrote on Construction Citizen that it appeared the proposal was being rammed through:

"...the resolution appears to have been crafted without input from a broad range of the local construction community.  This is especially puzzling when you consider that the owner in this case has the word “community” as part its official name.   Read more » about Austin Community College Taps the Brakes on New Rules for Construction

It’s been said that the military’s purpose is two-fold: “To kill people and to break things.”  But in the battle against an invisible enemy, in this case the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, United States military forces are tasked with building infrastructure that will hopefully help struggling nations contain the deadly infectious disease.  Specifically, they are arriving in Monrovia, Liberia as part of a plan to build tent hospitals and train local nurses to treat a reportedly widening Ebola epidemic in Africa.

The Wall Street Journal reports the troops are getting a slow start:

“On Saturday, a handful of troops from the Navy's 133rd Mobile Construction Battalion led a bulldozer through thigh-high grass outside Liberia's main airport, bottles of hand sanitizer dangling from their belt loops.   Read more » about US Troops Get Started with Construction of Ebola Treatment Centers [VIDEO]

Last month marked the end of summer.  For most of us, that means no more trips to the beach or outdoor BBQs, but for many of our neighbors working construction in Texas, the falling temperatures offer desperately needed relief from brutal, and often life threatening, working conditions.

Billy Tirado is a foundation repairman from Dallas.  For the past 12 years, he’s worked hard to provide for his wife and three daughters, but he risks his health every time he works in the hot Texas sun.  Last summer, Billy was working for a foundation repair company that forbade him from stopping for water or rest.  As a result, he nearly fainted from heat exhaustion.  “Your body feels like it is suffocating...I felt dizzy.  My eyes got blurry.  I felt nauseous.”

Sadly, Billy’s experience is typical in the Texas construction industry.  Because there is no state or federal law ensuring rest breaks for construction workers, many employers fail to do the right thing; nearly 40% of Texas construction workers do not receive rest breaks on the job.  Workers who are denied rest breaks face higher risks of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and even death.  This summer in Dallas, an average of two workers were hospitalized due to heat-related illnesses every day.   Read more » about Working Without Rest Puts Lives in Danger

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