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.

A former drywall contractor in Walla Walla, Washington has been found liable for unpaid workers’ comp premiums, interest, and late fees totaling over one million dollars.  A Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) investigation determined that Shawn A. Campbell's company, E & E Acoustics, LLC, underreported the hours that its employees worked by failing to accurately report the size of the company's drywall jobs from April 2007 through June 2009.

Campbell owes L&I more than $615,000 in premiums, $102,000 in late penalties, and $296,000 in interest, totaling over $1,013,00.00.  The judgment is believed to be one of L&I's largest-ever holding an employer personally liable for his company's workers' comp premiums, interest and penalties.   Read more » about Washington State Drywall Contractor Ordered to Pay Over $1 Million in Workers’ Comp Premiums and Penalties

After sailing to approval in the Texas House, a package of bonds worth about $3.1 billion in college campus construction might have a more uncertain future in the Texas Senate. The bill approved earlier this month in the House drew only a few “no” votes, mainly from lawmakers aligned with some groups that claim to be fiscally conservative. They argue it’s not the right time for the state to take on debt for this purpose 

But, leaders in higher education and business groups have made the case that there is an urgent need in Texas to fund more classroom space at colleges and universities as part of the state’s overall effort to maintain an educated and balanced workforce. As noted in the Austin Business Journal, “The construction requests of the state’s major university systems this legislative session correlate with the growth of high-demand jobs in the science, engineering and technology fields in Texas.”   Read more » about More Than $3 Billion in College Campus Construction Closer to Reality in Texas

Over the years, the Construction Citizen team has put a bright spotlight on the myriad problems caused by worker misclassification. Those difficulties continue to mount while Texas lawmakers do very little about it, much to the frustration of ethical companies that cannot compete with cheaters, many single mothers who are denied child support payments, conservative activists upset about illegal immigration, and workers’ rights advocates who believe in a better standard of living for those who toil in the hot Texas sun.

Worker misclassification is one of the major underlying problems when it comes to fixing all those challenges.

If you're unfamiliar, worker misclassification is a fancy term for cheating on payroll. That’s why labor activists call it “payroll fraud.” It happens when a boss pretends their worker is an “independent subcontractor” instead of an employee even when, by law, the person should be on the books as an employee.   Read more » about Cheating by Unethical Employers Reaches Crisis Levels While Texas Lawmakers Sit on Their Hands

The following article was authored by Matthew Waller.

Tracy Kyzer’s company gave him a ride back home. He had been given a company vehicle, and that was going away. His employers had given him time to clean out his desk.

In early March, Kyzer, 51, was let go from oil and gas company Schlumberger in Midland, joining thousands who have lost jobs in the Texas energy sector.

His wife is still working with an oil company.

“After I hang up the phone with you, she may not be,” Kyzer said on a call.

Across the state capital investments are being cut, as the price of oil has plummeted more than 50 percent from its $100 highs last summer.    Read more » about Oil Workers Face Job-Loss Transitions

According to Breitbart, “Despite the February 21 settlement of a bitter labor dispute at West Coast ports between employers and members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), whose members command average wages and benefits of about $1,200 a day, the continuing bottleneck is still causing job and revenue losses across many US industries.” The contract negotiations lasted over 9 months between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

Unions are notorious for using slow downs, work stoppages, strikes and picket lines as a negotiating ploys to force” management” to sit down at the negotiating table to either listen to worker’s complaints and/or to respond to a demand for higher wages and “better and safer” working conditions for the workers in that particular union.    Read more » about Strikes and Slow Downs Have Long Tails

Editor's note: As President Obama’s most recent executive order on immigration is challenged in the courts and state lawmakers consider where to codify former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s executive order on E-Verify, we thought it would be helpful to employers to offer the analysis of one of the nation’s foremost immigration attorneys. Charles C. Foster has advised Presidents Bush and Obama on the issue. Below, his analysis of how things may play out in the longhaul is offered for your consideration – The Construction Citizen Team.

“The arc of history is long but it bends towards justice.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Even the most ardent critics of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration must acknowledge they are undeniably sweeping, historic in scope and will have a huge impact on the large undocumented long-term residing population of the United States with one or more U.S. citizen children or children who are Lawful Permanent Residents.    Read more » about Immigration Executive Orders from Rick Perry and President Barack Obama: What They Mean for Texas

Construction firms and labor advocates alike have now told state lawmakers they are in favor of a proposal under consideration at the Texas Capitol to create a searchable database of employers convicted of stealing the wages of their workers.

Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, told the Texas House Business and Industry Committee during a public hearing that the current version of her legislation, House Bill 94, is the result of collaboration with business interests, workers’ rights advocates and Republican lawmakers who want to protect ethical employers and workers as well.

Former Republican Rep. John Davis, R-Clear Lake, helped the El Paso-area Democrat craft this legislation along with Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, and Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston.

"Wage theft is bad for good business," González said.    Read more » about Business and Labor Join Forces in Push to Crack Down on Wage Theft in Texas

An incredible amount of candor will be required to address the question of how to deal with an estimated $1.5 billion worth of maintenance that so far has been deferred on state-owned buildings in Texas. That’s one of the main messages from Republicans and Democrats alike on the newly-created Texas Senate Select Committee on Government Facilities.

All members of the panel, including its GOP chairman, said the needs are great and can only be truly met if lawmakers are working with solid facts and figures. Chairman Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, said during the committee’s first meeting that if the heads of state agencies are crystal clear about their needs, they’ll be able to provide reliable intelligence that lawmakers can use to craft long-term solutions. In 2006, the estimate for deferred maintenance was about $400 million and it has ballooned in the years since.

“We'd like to have a successful result for everybody," Eltife said. He also indicated that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has told him the committee’s work may be extended past the regular session of the Legislature so they can really dig down into problematic government facilities.    Read more » about Texas Lawmakers Start to Dive Down into Deferred Maintenance