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.

As Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, rolled out his top priorities for lawmakers in Austin earlier this year, one of the things he sought to highlight is the importance of a skilled workforce and the fact that a four-year degree is not a necessity for every single student. Abbott is a big believer in higher education, make no mistake. In fact, one of his emergency items includes recruitment of more Nobel Laureates and their equivalents to Texas.

But his message on the issue is nuanced. Some students need a four-year degree or more and others can get exactly what they need in a two-year program equipping them with the skills employers demand.

In his State of the State Address in February, Gov. Abbott said the path to success is not the same for all students.    Read more » about Texas Governor Receives Honorary Welding Certificate, a Document of “Economic Freedom”

The following article was authored by Alex Nowrasteh and originally published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Alex Nowrasteh is an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

State Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, and Reps. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, and Gilbert Peña, R-Pasadena, have all proposed bills to create a guest worker program for Texas.

A Texas-based visa would allow the state to regulate migrant workers according to its own needs and cut out the feds. Regulators in D.C. don’t know what’s best for Texas.    Read more » about Sensible Immigration Reform for Texas

In an explosive investigation that drew the attention of many average Texans over the weekend, WFAA Television in Dallas/Fort Worth put a bright spotlight on the problem of worker misclassification. It’s a problem the Construction Citizen team has exposed for years and we greatly appreciate any time other media outlets take up the cause as well.

This most recent outrage came to light after three men working as independent subcontractors underneath Thanksgiving Tower in Dallas died in a horrific accident. But, the companies involved have denied damages to their families. How can that be? From the story:

Although they were little more than laborers, the State of Texas allows them to be called "independent contractors." That means they can get no workers compensation, and have no federal income tax or Social Security tax deducted from their paychecks.

Three independent contractors' deaths at Thanksgiving Tower are the subject of legal action, but the families of the three men will receive no compensation for their deaths. Byron Harris has more on the "invisible workers."   Read more » about DFW Television Report Puts Spotlight on Worker Misclassification

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

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