A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Reshaping the Construction Industry

Our last blog post talked about “black box” projects.  ExxonMobil just disclosed a new project that has been in the Black Box for several years: Project Delta. ...
Jim Kollaer's picture
July 06, 2011
Corporations and government agencies have fairly large “Black Boxes” like the infamous “Area 59” in California where they conduct research, development and design on projects that they don’t want their competition or sometimes their vendors and allies to know about.In the economic development world, it is not unusual for a city’s economic development team to be contacted by a site consultant or company representative to discuss potential sites for an unnamed project.  Invariably they have great names like Dick and Jane or the Duck, or more recently the Delta project.The mystery companies make everyone sign non-disclosure agreements or NDAs to keep the real company’s identity secret during negotiations.  
Jim Kollaer's picture
July 05, 2011
The objective of most employees is earning a living doing what you enjoy doing.  The objective of most businesses is building a competent and professional workforce able to respond to customer’s needs.  AND, the objective of all concerned is the steady flow of work and manpower.Since most jobs these days have evolved into areas of specialty, the narrowly trained professional will do well when his or her expertise is needed, but might find oneself on the sideline or sent home if unable to contribute.  So, to keep things on track for all concerned, the best scenario would be to have everyone trained in all phases of the work.  Reality shows this is impossible, but we can do what it takes to approach this goal by cross training.We all want to improve ourselves and advance in life.  A company that doesn’t keep training ongoing will find their people moving on down the road to another job that will allow them to advance.  Allowing employees trained in one area to
David Dennis's picture
June 30, 2011
Last March, Construction Citizen covered a protest held by workers who had been cheated out of wages by Carole Johnson Builders LLC, a subcontractor on a Houston construction project.  We were able to interview of one of the foreman who had worked for the subcontractor on the project and who had not been able to collect the wages he was owed.Bobby Herndon worked for Carole Johnson Builders LLC and was told that he would be paid wages by the hour.  He was not paid overtime for the hours he worked each week over 40, and in fact the Carole Johnson Builders LLC did not even pay for all of the hours Herndon worked.  When asked how much money he was still owed of the money he had earned, the pain and hurt from the injustice is evident in the following video as he answers “twenty-four hundred dollars.”  
Elizabeth McPherson's picture
June 29, 2011
We have written about the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world, at 828 meters high.  The newest skyscrapers in progress in the current construction cycle of tall buildings, while not as tall as the Burj, are still substantial and will change the skylines of the cities where they are being built.There are some interesting buildings going up, but few of them in the United States.  It seems that the Middle East and Asia are currently vying to create new, different and taller buildings.  Ever since the earliest discussions of Frank Lloyd Wright who projected multiuse buildings a mile into the sky, designers have been speculating on how to build their designs.  Only recently have the engineering, financing and especially the construction techniques caught up with the designer’s visions.  Shanghai Tower, currently under construction in Shanghai, though not as tall as the Burj, is still about half of the height that Wright proposed in the mid 1900s.We like the SkyscraperPage.com website which provides users with the ability to click through for more information about the buildings such as designer and engineer so that we can stay in touch as these buildings stretch even higher into the sky.  We would suggest to the folks who add to the database that they include the contractors who lead the construction on each of them.  
Jim Kollaer's picture
June 27, 2011
Owners, developers and contractors have a new critical issue to add to their list of concerns about the hiring of illegal labor on their projects – human trafficking victims.We...
Jim Kollaer's picture
June 23, 2011
A recent decision following an investigation by the New Orleans District Office Wage and Hour Division of the US Department of Labor tied a Louisiana general contractor to the employment of drywall installers hired by a subcontractor for work on several residential and commercial projects.  The workers were misclassified as independent contractors and denied overtime wages for the time they worked each week over 40 hours.  The subcontractor, Escapade Acoustic Drywall from Lafayette, and the general contractor, Lloyd N. Moreau LLC of Pineville were found to have a joint employment relationship and are both being held responsible for the workers’ back wages.A press release from the US Department of Labor earlier this month explains the problem with the growing practice of worker misclassification / payroll fraud.“The practice is a serious threat both to workers entitled to good, safe jobs, and employers who obey the law. Too often workers are deprived of overtime and minimum wages, and forced to pay taxes that their employers are legally obligated to pay. Honest employers have a difficult time competing against scofflaws.”  
Elizabeth McPherson's picture
June 21, 2011
Houston business owner Lowell Daniel offers contracting services in landscaping, irrigation, and drainage.  He has heard horror stories from some of the workers he has employed about the mistreatment and wage theft that they have suffered from other contractors while trying to earn a living for themselves and for their families.Disturbed by the injustice some of these workers had faced, Mr. Daniel attempted to “call out” some of the dishonest contractors by informing the customers who had hired them that those contractors had not paid the workers who actually performed the work for the customers.  Daniel explained that the workers had agreed to do the grueling work for a lower fee than many workers would require, and that they were not even paid that lower amount.  Another instance he was told about was a case where some of the workers had been taken from Houston to a farm in Louisiana in order to harvest sweet potatoes.  Not only were the workers treated abominably throughout the harvest, when they were brought back to Houston, they were abandoned beside the highway without their full promised wages and left with no option but to walk the rest of the way home.  
Elizabeth McPherson's picture
June 20, 2011
Charter Builders in Dallas, a Balfour Beatty company, is the general contractor on the largest “Net Zero” school in the nation, located in Irving, Texas near Dallas.  Net Zero means that the facility, when completed in August, will generate sufficient power through its design and from its passive energy systems for the school to operate without using the grid.Engineering News-Record (ENR) quotes Aaron Scates, vice president of operations for Charter Builders, the Dallas-based unit of Balfour Beatty Construction that is building Lady Bird.  Scates believes that net-zero schools will become more common in the future.  He stated:“Buildings like this will play to being more frugal and economically stable.  On a middle school, electric bills can range from $20,000 to $40,000 a month.  A building that doesn’t have an electric bill creates more money for other opportunities.”  
Jim Kollaer's picture
June 16, 2011
Tompkins County Workers’ Center in Ithaca, New York offers a Living Wage Employer Certification for businesses who wish to publically commit to certain criteria regarding the treatment and compensation of their employees.  The employers agree to pay at least $11.67 per hour (or the current Tompkins County Living Wage rate) to all regular employees, offer them partially paid health insurance, and be free of health and safety violations.The Workers’ Center website points out that the benefit to employers goes beyond just knowing that they are “doing the right thing”.  The website affirms:“By paying your employees fairly, you take advantage of the service/profit cycle. When you invest in staff rewards, both tangible and intangible, their satisfaction
Elizabeth McPherson's picture
June 15, 2011