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.

I love the construction industry and I speak from experience when telling you it has to be saved from itself. Since 1938, our family business has helped build the monuments of this city and this state. More importantly, our companies – like many others over the past 75 years – have helped tens of thousands of hard-working Americans enjoy an honorable blue collar, middle class standard of living. But, now our middle class is threatened like never before.

When I graduated from Texas A&M in 1969, after serving my active duty in the Marine Corps Reserves, I joined the local carpenters union as a drywall mechanic. Wages and benefits were very good and it was indeed a quality, middle class occupation. The non-union tradespeople enjoyed the same kind of lifestyle. We all received good hourly pay, overtime, worker’s compensation insurance protection and had employment taxes deducted and paid. There was a bond between company and worker.    Read more » about How the Construction Industry Can Help Save the American Middle Class

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama announced that he was going to propose a plan to Congress which would make “the first two years of community college free for everybody who is willing to work for it.”  He stated the importance of education not just for kids, but also to offer the opportunity for everybody to become better trained so that they could receive better jobs, wages, and benefits.  During his annual State of the Union Address on January 20, he explained why he believes this plan is so important.  He said,

“To make sure folks keep earning higher wages down the road, we have to do more to help Americans upgrade their skills.

“America thrived in the 20th century because we made high school free, sent a generation of GIs to college, and trained the best workforce in the world.  But in a 21st century economy that rewards knowledge like never before, we need to do more.   Read more » about Can Free Community College Close the Skills Gap?

A report from a bipartisan panel of Texas lawmakers says companies that pretend their employees are independent subcontractors are undermining free markets and encouraging illegal immigration, among other serious problems. The practice of worker misclassification, as Construction Citizen has reported many times, happens when an employer intentionally skirts the law by paying workers as independent subcontractors when they meet the legal definition of employees and should be paid as such.

Preventing workers from being paid as employees denies them basic protections and costs taxpayers millions each year because employers are avoiding payroll taxes on that labor. Employers who follow the law are investing in a sustainable workforce, which is undermined by worker misclassification. Many of those ethical employers have urged lawmakers to do more to contain what they’ve called “a cancer” in the heart of the construction industry.

So, the Texas House Business and Industry Committee this past year took an in-depth look at the issue, including testimony from construction industry leaders, labor advocates and others who are united in combating misclassification. Read more » about Texas House Panel finds that worker misclassification “compromises free markets” and promotes “lawlessness”

A key political leader in Texas is set to propose a plan to build on sweeping education reforms passed in the state two years ago. House Speaker Joe Straus this week announced he will propose additional resources for counseling of students. This comes after some lawmakers questioned whether the state is doing enough to make sure students and their parents are equipped to take full advantage of changes made under House Bill 5, which created multiple pathways to a high school diploma.

Specifically, Speaker Straus will ask lawmakers to approve stipends for counselors designed to entice those educators to pursue additional training in their field. Doing so would enable them to better serve students who now have to navigate the more complicated system of multiple pathways to graduation.    Read more » about Texas House to Build on Education Reforms

Ethical operators in construction do all they can to ensure their craftsmen and women are extremely safe on their jobsites. Many companies go as far as maintaining an ongoing relationship with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, so that the industry and the government can be proactive, instead of reactive, when it comes to the safety of people on jobsites across America. While some companies are skeptical that kind of arrangement, other firms have found it is a positive way to stay ahead of potential problems that increase liability and make them less attractive employment options.    Read more » about Top Ten Safety Violations of 2014

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

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