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.

Amid the chaos in Congress and the humanitarian crisis on the Texas-Mexico border, construction executives from the Lone Star State traveled to the White House this past week to urge President Barack Obama to be smart about any executive action he might take to address longstanding challenges in immigration policy.

Their message to top administration officials was that it would be preferable for Congress to pass legislation on the issue.  But in the absence of that – and seeing no evidence that the US House will act – the Republican businessmen from Texas would be okay with an executive order from the Democratic president allowing for millions of undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States as long as they can pass a background check, are identified, and taxed.  As envisioned, this would amount to an expansion of the president’s controversial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.  That executive action, as you may be aware, puts deportations on hold for two years for young immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.  Those waivers are renewable.

Houston construction executives Stan Marek and Gregg Reyes, along with immigration attorney Beto Cardenas, met late Friday with Obama senior advisers Cecilia Munoz and Valerie Jarrett to talk about what might happen next as the administration grapples with immigration policy.   Read more » about Texas Construction Executives Press the White House on Immigration Reform

The following is excerpted from an article by Ulf Wolf which was originally published in Construction Dimensions, a monthly publication by the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry.  Reprinted with permission.

You find yourself underbid by 30 percent.

The contractor in question swears on a stack of Bibles that all of his labor is legal and documented and that he, as required by law, pays payroll tax and workers’ comp for all of his crew just like everybody else (all the while his nose grows faster and longer than Pinocchio’s ever did).

Meanwhile, the general contractor has a complicated job to get done and may be unaware of any violations on his job site (or he may look the other way) while the owner – well, the owner doesn’t really want to be bothered with “details.”   Read more » about Immigration Reform and the Shadow Economy

Even though the humanitarian crisis along the border has complicated the issue and certain political setbacks have caused pundits to proclaim that immigration reform is dead, business leaders at the state and national levels are pushing as hard as ever for comprehensive reform.

Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Sheldon Adelson – three men who could not be more different in their politics – contributed an op-ed article to the New York Times last week stating that time for reforming the system is long past due.  The trio argued that it is ridiculous for Washington to grind to a halt simply because one member of congress lost a Republican primary election and the reason for it may have been that lawmaker's support for comprehensive immigration reform:

“The three of us vary in our politics and would differ also in our preferences about the details of an immigration reform bill.  But we could without doubt come together to draft a bill acceptable to each of us.  We hope that fact holds a lesson: You don’t have to agree on everything in order to cooperate on matters about which you are reasonably close to agreement.  It’s time that this brand of thinking finds its way to Washington.   Read more » about Despite Setbacks, Business Leaders Push Immigration Reform

The Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act (TUTSA) became effective on September 1, 2013.  Texas was the 48th state to adopt a version of the model Uniform Trade Secrets Act.

Texas businesses should welcome the consistency offered by TUTSA, since it brings our law in line with that of most other states (the exceptions are New York and Massachusetts).

The statute defines “trade secret” as: “information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, process, financial data, or list of actual or potential customers or suppliers, that:

(A) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and   Read more » about Trade Secret Protection: New Law, Practical Issues

This past week, the Austin Chapter AGC Safety Committee visited with Marco Ramos, who was recently hired to enforce the City of Austin's rest break ordinance for construction workers.  Ramos discussed his new compliance role and said he proactively visits sites and also responds to complaints lodged via the City's 311 phone system.  Typically, the first thing he looks for on site is the required signage to be posted per the ordinance.  He also talks with workers about rest breaks and water availability.  He can issue citations for failure to post signage or allow breaks.  Ramos said there is good news in that he is seeing 90% and higher compliance thus far on Austin's commercial jobsites.

Since enactment of the rest break ordinance in 2010, the Austin AGC has consistently expressed concerns about the challenges of enforcement, however well-intentioned the ordinance may be.  The Austin AGC obviously and strongly supports rest breaks for workers, particularly in the extreme heat,   Read more » about AGC Safety Committee Visits with Austin City Rest Break Compliance Inspector

The Construction Citizen team has been tracking the progress of worker misclassification laws across the country, including the newly minted crackdown in Tennessee.  Elizabeth McPherson wrote about that when it was first passed last year.  Now we get word out of Nashville that a drywall contractor based in Music City has agreed to pay more than $300,000 in penalties for understating his payroll and misclassifying workers to avoid paying the required taxes and workers compensation insurance.   Read more » about Tennessee’s Worker Misclassification Crackdown is Already Making a Difference

Summer has arrived, and enthusiastic high school and college students are looking for summer internships.

Internships are not a problem if you are paying interns at least minimum wage, and are paying overtime hours (any hours worked over 40 in a work week) at one and one-half times their regular wage rate.

If you are considering unpaid internships, however, you may be exposing your company to a lawsuit.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, if you allow a person to perform services for you, in most instances that person must be paid and will be subject to minimum wage and overtime requirements.  There is a narrow exception for true unpaid internships, which must meet the following six criteria:   Read more » about Beware of Unpaid Internships

Texas’s capital city is economically booming in a way that’s almost unlike any other city in America, largely because of the region's technology industries.  Now, it is time for Austin to take the next step to ensure that the high-wage, high-tech economy also supports the creation of quality blue-collar jobs for working families.

That’s the argument laid out by Gregorio Casar, one of the “junkyard dogs” at the Workers Defense Project and now a candidate for Austin City Council.  He’s running for office at a chaotic time for Austin municipal elections now that the city has – as others have – moved to single-member districts that will allow each neighborhood to choose who represents them rather than having only at-large council members.  As many as six other candidates may be in the race with Casar before the vote this fall.   Read more » about Creation of Quality Construction Jobs Emerges as Issue in Austin Political Race