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?

Editor's Note: The Workers Defense Project in Austin is making progress in promoting its Better Builder Program, which seeks to ensure construction workers are paid correctly and are as safe as possible on construction job sites. More information about the program is here. In the guest op-ed below, the Better Builder Program Director Bo Delp explains that the Austin City Council is considering an expedited permit process for developers that agree to use the program on their projects.

The City of Austin is considering a budget-neutral policy that will create a win-win for workers, project owners, and honest contractors. 

Sound too good to be true? Hear me out.

Like much of Texas, the City of Austin is growing rapidly, and as a result its permitting process has become a mess, leaving project owners feeling the financial impact of serious delays. 

In response, the city is poised to create an expedited permit review process that will help reduce wait times for owners from months to days by asking owners to pay a premium, hourly fee. The challenge is that Austin is the most economically segregated city in the country and is facing a serious affordability crisis. Unbridled and unmanaged growth could amplify and exacerbate our city’s challenges. This would especially be felt by the men and women who build our city.   Read more » about Win-Win: City of Austin Considers Worker Protections, Permit Reform

With each passing day, state and federal governments are getting more serious about rooting out and eliminating worker misclassification, sometimes known as payroll fraud. But much more must be done to end what has been called a "cancer...eating at the heart of our industry."

Regular readers of Construction Citizen know that worker misclassification happens when a company pretends its employees are “independent subcontractors” with the intent of skirting payroll taxes and benefits like workers’ compensation insurance and – because of their reduced labor costs – are able to submit lower bids for projects, undercutting ethical contractors.

In Professional Roofing Magazine earlier this year, attorney William E. Burnett gave contractors an in-depth look at the problem from all angles.    Read more » about Professional Roofing Magazine Shines Spotlight on Worker Misclassification

The City of Philadelphia is taking a hard line on wage theft with some stiff penalties for employers caught stiffing their workers. It is such a tough law that some have criticized it as “draconian.” But others have applauded the city’s aggressive stance.

Any week that wages are found to be unpaid is a separate violation by an employer under this strict ordinance, which also says businesses will be hit with penalties of up to $2,300 for each violation if there is not a “good faith contest of the wages owed exists.”

That means employers could be subject to multiple $2,300 fines for a single employee’s complaint for unpaid wages if the complaint spans multiple weeks.    Read more » about Philadelphia Comes Down Hard on Wage Theft

The following article originally appeared in the July newsletter to clients of Kiley Advisors, LLC.  Reprinted with permission.

We often use the positive statement when referring to a person we admire “he/she has good character,” meaning they consistently act with integrity and high ethical standards.  It has been my observation, over 32 privileged years of working with contractors, most people, especially those attracted to the construction industry, strive to build a reputation for having good character, and to do business only with others that have the same.

However, I think the question can be legitimately raised, whether having “good character” is something we still value in political leaders, especially in candidates for the highest office in the land.  Predicated on the two presumptive nominees for the parties, it appears we may be relaxing the character standard substantially.   Read more » about Character Still Counts in the Construction Industry

The following article was originally published in the Houston Chronicle:

Mayor Sylvester Turner and City Council recently passed an ordinance encouraging apartment developers applying for tax incentives to provide workers with livable wages, offer affordable or workforce housing assistance, offer paid internships to low-income students, jobs to ex-cons re-entering the workforce and to create middle-skill jobs that don't require a college degree.

City leaders should be congratulated for taking a measured approach to encouraging new development while creating additional career opportunities in the skilled trades. But there is much more work to do if this story will become a true victory for the city of Houston, developers and individuals who work tirelessly building our community. For a number of complex reasons, the craft workforce in the commercial construction industry is unsustainable and inefficient. More craft workers are leaving the industry than joining it. Baby boomers are retiring and the industry is not attracting candidates quickly enough to replace them.    Read more » about The Construction Industry Needs a Culture Change: Stop the 'Race to the Bottom'

The following article originally appeared in the June newsletter to clients of Kiley Advisors, LLC.  Reprinted with permission.

We continue discussing the importance of culture both in creating high-performance teams and in winning the war for talent.  The research seems so compelling that most true leaders believe it is THE fundamental for competitive success.  It even trumps strategy in the hierarchy of critical ingredients.

Culture emanates from the beliefs and values of the founders, owners, and senior leaders and is reflected in the “way we do things here – what you can count on from us.”  It is the basis for policies and practices.  The role of the senior leadership team and all other managers is to define it, align the people to it, and above all demonstrate it.

If leaders walk their talk consistently – writing an occasional check or eliminating a top economic performer who is a major culture killer – specific examples will become part of the “tribal stories” and will be passed along with pride from generation to generation.  I have personally seen this many times.   Read more » about Reinforcing and Engraining Culture

Marek Dallas Division President John Hinson wrote the following President’s Message for AWCI's Construction Dimension magazine. Hinson is the 2015-2016 President of AWCI. 

Here’s an inspiring tale about someone I think of as part of the Greatest Generation. He is a founding father of the Marek Company.

When I first hired on, the Mareks owned some properties that they generously allowed employees to enjoy during vacations. Very early one morning at the beginning of my career when my family and I were staying at one of the company’s properties at Circle Lake, northwest of Houston, Ralph Marek came to the door to offer my mother a basket full of fresh tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and okra.

“Welcome to Circle Lake,” he said. “Can you find a good use for these? I just picked them and I don’t want ’em to go bad.” He set them down and headed back to the garden.

I was impressed that one of the company’s founders picked his own vegetables—and that he brought them to an employee as a gift. It was then that my mother, affectionately known to everyone as “Grandma Dot,” gave me what she said would be the most important advice she would ever give me.    Read more » about Message Hits Home

Originally published in the Houston Chronicle.  Reprinted with permission.

As someone intimately familiar with the economic realities of the situation, I am quite disappointed by the immigration arguments made by the Texas Attorney General’s Office before the United States Supreme Court last week.

Regardless of your position on President Obama’s executive action protecting immigrants from deportation or the State of Texas’ claim that driver’s licenses for them would be an unfair burden, one fact is inescapable: they are here and they are not going anywhere.

An estimated 2.5 million are in Texas and many of them are doing a majority of the construction work, usually for low wages and under dangerous conditions. They’re also cooking our food, mowing our lawns, cleaning our buildings and performing many other necessary tasks.    Read more » about Undocumenting Our Interests

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