A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Reshaping the Construction Industry

Press release from Emily Timm of the Workers Defense Project about the Texas Workforce Commission vote this Monday on proposed legislation to strengthen penalties for worker...
November 10, 2010
Contractor and Wife Use Workers’ Compensation Funds for Luxury ItemsA roofing contractor in Orange County, California who committed Workers’ Compensation Insurance fraud was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to repay $500,000 to the state insurance fund.  The contractor’s wife is also charged in the case and faces a pre-trial mental health screening today.  Michael Vincent Petronella, also known as Michael Constantine, and his wife Devon Lynn Kile were arrested in April 2009 following an investigation which began after one of Petronella’s employees sustained an injury on the job in March 2006.  At the time Petronella and Kile owned several businesses, one of which was Western Cleanoff, Inc.  The injured employee filed a claim with the State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF) using a payroll stub from Western Cleanoff.  When SCIF saw that this was a company which they did not insure, they suspected fraud and turned the information over to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) and Department of Insurance (DOI).  According to a press release from District Attorney Tony Rackauckas’ office, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry, cash, and property was seized from the couple and held as collateral at the time of their arrest.  
November 10, 2010
The economy did add 151,000 new jobs last month, but with 15 million folks out of work in the country, it will take another 99 months to recover to the level where it was at the peak in 2007.  The recovery is already slower that the last 4 other recessions.  The blog Economix shows the recovery in graphic form, one that illustrates just how deep the recession has been.If the next peak takes place 99 months from today, or in the Spring of 2019, we will have to get underway soon.  For our industry to recover, that means that lending has to improve, developers have to be able to see markets emerging from the fog
November 09, 2010
Construction Citizen recently interviewed an iron worker who is happy to be employed by Dennis Steel, Inc., a steel fabrication and erection subcontractor in Texas which has been run responsibly and with integrity by founder David Dennis for over 30 years.  An example of a responsible business owner who is advancing the principles of Construction Citizen, David Dennis ensures that employees of Dennis Steel are paid good benefits and a solid wage and are provided with a safe working environment.  We asked Myles Parnell, a field foreman for the company, what it was like working for Dennis Steel.  He talked about the things he appreciated about working for the company including how the owner looks out for his employees by providing them with all their safety equipment, providing insurance for the employees and their families, paying a competitive pay wage and making them each feel cared for.  However, Parnell explained that the price of treating his employees so well sometimes causes the company to be under-bid by less responsible companies.
November 06, 2010
So what does that mean for the industry?  I really don’t care whether you are a Democrat, Republican, Tea Party, Independent or Libertarian, “It is still about the jobs,...
November 05, 2010
The owner of a drywall company in Marysville, WA (about 40 miles north of Seattle) was convicted of a felony last week for workers’ compensation fraud and failing to report collected sales tax.  He was sentenced to over 6 years in prison and taken into custody, in part for failing to provide workers’ compensation insurance for his employees.  Judge Ellen J. Fair ordered Mark D. Standley to repay over $2,400,000 for these crimes he committed from 2003 to 2008.  The Washington State Department of Revenue (a division of their State Department of Labor and Industries) reported that:“[Judge] Fair said the exceptional sentence was appropriate given Standley’s crime and failure to make significant restitution. She had given him a year to make restitution, including penalties and interest, to the Department of Revenue and Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). He repaid only $500.”This is yet another example of strict penalties being handed out for what has become common practice in many areas of the construction industry.  
November 04, 2010
Editor’s note:  The name of the Construction Industry Sustainable Workforce Alliance (CISWA) was later changed to the Construction Career Collaborative (C3).As a specialty contractor with a significant hourly workforce in the commercial construction industry, I am deeply concerned about a disturbing trend that has developed over the past thirty years and has recently escalated to a new level.  Beginning with the 1980s economic decline in Houston and Texas, and continuing over the last three decades, employment practices in the commercial construction industry have deteriorated to the point that, for the most part, the employee/employer relationship is almost non- existent.  Except at the more responsible companies, the once valued partnership between employer and worker has been replaced by the hiring of independent 1099 contractors, “pieceworkers” and temporary staffing companies.  
November 03, 2010
This Tuesday New York’s Construction Industry Fair Play Act, aimed at combatting worker misclassification, went into effect.  A press release issued by the New York State Department of Labor stated:“Studies show that in any given year, employers misclassify from 15 to 25 percent of construction workers in New York State as independent contractors.  Employee misclassification happens when an employer labels workers wrongly as independent contractors or pays them completely off the books and thus denies them benefits and protections under State and Federal law.    
October 28, 2010
The wage theft class action suit filed by the Workers Defense Project on behalf of three construction workers who claimed that the specialty contractor Greater Metroplex Interiors (GMI) had shorted them on wages due and had not paid them overtime on the construction of the Gables Park Plaza has an interesting basis on a little known part of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) according to the Department of Labor.The interesting point about the suit is that the suit is filed claiming joint employer status.  The plaintiff’s attorney, Craig Deats of Deats, Durst, Owen & Levy, PLLC in Austin told Construction Citizen that this is a common law under the labor laws and that the courts will decide whether GMI acted as a joint employer as is claimed in the suit.  He offers his opinion in the following video:  
October 27, 2010
Patricia Zavala, Workplace Justice Coordinator for the Workers Defense Project, recently answered a few questions for Construction Citizen regarding last week’s press conference on the construction workers’ class action law suit we told you about yesterday, as well as the Workers Defense Project, their campaign for fair working conditions and the services which they provide for construction workers in the Austin area.Construction Citizen:  Please introduce yourself and tell us about the Workers Defense Project – who your organization is, what you do and why you do it.
October 26, 2010