Sophisticated project owners and developers pick premier contractors who are principled, are socially responsible and develop their workforce. They know that contractors who build lasting, high quality employee relationships and career paths for their craftspeople consistently deliver the best value and results. Their practices produce tax revenue and stability to communities while also lowering social service burdens.

Knowledgeable owners and developers avoid using contractors who are are unprincipled and who use misclassified or undocumented workers who are often paid in cash and lack the skills, long-term commitment and support necessary for producing top quality work. They know these second-rate practices not only lead to poor results and hidden costs but also have social consequences in their communities including uncollected taxes, increased social services costs and lower incomes.

What do socially responsible contractors get in return for being responsible?

Do "socially indifferent" or "socially irresponsible" owners, developers and contractors in your community face consequences to their reputation and business?

In what looks to many like a slap on the wrist, the feds are fining two companies involved in last year's collapse at the Texas A&M Equine Complex construction site that left four workers injured.  The Bryan-College Station Eagle reports that Ramco Erectors, a company based in Houston, was fined a little more than $40,000 for seven safety violations discovered by OHSA inspectors.  The general contractor, Gamma Construction, has also been hit with less than $7,000 in fines.  From the article:

“The injured – all of whom recovered from their injuries – were working on a 300-foot barn that was under construction as part of the $80 million Equine Complex when it collapsed due to a failure in structural stability, according to the OSHA citations.   Read more » about UPDATE: OSHA Fines and a Lawsuit at Texas A&M Over Construction Accidents

Originally posted by Mike Holland on

On Thursday, November 21st, of this year I, along with 50 other executives, “slept out” on the grounds of the Covenant House, a homeless shelter for kids, to help raise awareness and much needed funds. For me, it was the second time to participate in this wonderful and transformative event. I was introduced to this by a good friend Kurt Nondorf, who has served on the Covenant board for several years. Admittedly, when Kurt first asked me, I really did not know what I had agreed to. I just did it because I trust him, and if he thought it was important, then I was willing to do whatever he asked.

With a little help from my assistant Whitney, and the Covenant House staff I soon had a fund raising page up on the Covenant website, and after a few e-mails and calls the money started rolling in. I was surprised at the amount of passion and interest in the plight of the homeless, but my own level of concern was yet to be determined.

What an experience the Sleep Out turned out to be! The evening began with the “intake process”, where homeless youth are interviewed and introduced to the staff and facility. Each of us “sleepers” experienced the intake process, similar to what a young man or woman would when entering the Covenant House.   Read more » about Executive Sleep Out

On a weather-perfect, sunny fall day just north of Houston last month, 280 golfers participated in a charity tournament, luncheon, and silent auction benefitting the Good Shepherd Residential Treatment Center through the recently created Building New Foundations nonprofit volunteer organization.  Thousands of dollars were raised which will benefit the Center which helps boys who are considered to be too “high risk” for regular foster care.  Without the efforts of the staff and volunteers at Good Shepherd, and the money raised from private donations, these boys would not have a safe place to live or much hope for their futures.

The golf tournament kicked off with a Putting Contest and a Marshmallow Drive.  Then groups of four took to the links to vie for other awards such as Longest Drive and Closest to the Pin – or at least to turn in a respectable score.   Read more » about Get in the Game

Now that the City of Houston is moving forward with a policy to crack down on employers that steal the wages of workers, the pressure will be on to make it work.  It'll be no small task because, as you well know, those that engage in these crimes against hard-working Texans are pretty slippery characters.  And that's probably being kind about it.  Laura Perez-Boston at the Fe y Justicia Worker Center tells us exactly what the law is designed to do:

“The ordinance establishes a process housed in the Office of the Inspector General through which employees can bring wage claims forward.  Companies with a documented record of wage theft – either final adjudication from a court of competent jurisdiction or a criminal conviction – will be included in a publicly listed database on the City’s website and will be ineligible for city contracts or sub-contracts.  Additionally, any company with a criminal conviction of wage theft will be ineligible to receive occupational permits and licenses.”   Read more » about Houston Must Aggressively Enforce Its Wage Theft Ordinance

I have been in the construction industry my whole life.  As was my great grandfather who built the castles in Olomouc, Czech Republic but left to find the freedom offered by emigrating to America.  My Father and his brothers started our company 75 years ago with the sons of immigrant farmers from Central Texas towns like Yoakum, Hallettsville, and Shiner.  After many years of success in building a quality labor force of young men off the farm, the equation changed.  Latino workers came by the millions to fill the jobs that our growing nation provided.  President Reagan's immigration reform in 1986 offered amnesty for those already in the country but failed to create a legal way to migrate for the millions who would come after them.

Estimates are that over 30 million men and women immigrated to the U.S. in the two decades from 1986 to 2006.  Some left after a few years, but most stayed, put down roots, and tried to assimilate into their communities.   Read more » about How Immigration Reform Can Save the Construction Industry

A 19-year-old construction worker who barely survived a worksite accident at a high-rise construction project in downtown Austin says he was fired because he told federal safety investigators what happened, the Workers Defense Project revealed this weekend.  On Saturday, Wilmer Lopez Sanchez and others took to the streets in the rain and the cold to protest what they called his retaliatory firing.

On November 8th, a load of reinforcing steel fell several stories from a crane at the new luxury apartment high-rise at 7th and Rio Grande.  Lopez Sanchez was nearly crushed and other workers were rushed to the hospital.  Federal safety investigators interviewed Lopez Sanchez about the accident on Tuesday afternoon.  He was fired the next day.  “They almost took my life.  Now they've taken my job,“ he said.

Read more » about Workers Defense: Austin Worker Loses Job for Cooperating with Safety Investigators

Cristina Tzintzún, the executive director and co-founder of Austin’s Workers Defense Project (WDP), was a guest last Friday on the MSNBC show Up Late with Alec Baldwin.  As government leaders continue to argue about how to handle immigration reform, Baldwin sat down with Tzintzún to talk about the efforts of the WDP “to defend the rights of undocumented workers”, and why comprehensive immigration reform in the United States is crucial for the future of the construction industry.  With 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working in the United States, their treatment from a humanitarian point of view is no small problem.  Baldwin introduces the topic by explaining:

“While the battle over immigration reform plays out in Washington, out in the rest of the country, out of the spotlight, those undocumented workers are fighting real battles just to feed their families.  Why?  Because without the protection of citizenship, they are vulnerable to exploitation like wage theft – people hiring them to do work and then not paying them, in unsafe and even deadly work conditions. ... The Workers Defense Project in Texas is leading the fight to change this.”   Read more » about Alec Baldwin Interviews WDP Director: Construction Industry Needs Immigration Reform

Responsible Business Owners and Working Families Urge Council Support and Action to Bring Wage Theft Down

As Houston city council members shift into campaign mode to convince voters to re-elect them on November 5, thousands of Houstonians are urging them to close unfinished business when it comes to wage theft.  Last week, faith and business industry leaders along with working families and employees of city subcontractors with cases of wage theft all gathered together in front of City Hall with a clear message: pass the Anti-Wage Theft Ordinance now!  Following that show of support for the ordinance, Mayor Annise Parker has since stated that she will put the proposed ordinance on the Full Council Agenda for vote on November 13th.

On October 15, supporters of the ordinance gathered with posters profiling two local families affected by wage theft.  The group heard from speakers including Reverend Ron Lister, Reverend John Griffin, Sister Ceil Roeger, and Joe Marcinkowski.   Read more » about Houstonians Expose Impacts of Wage Theft on Victims and Urge City Council to Act