Construction is a large and complex worldwide industry constantly shaped by new information technologies, advanced materials, environmental policies, regulations and changing building methods. Most importantly, though, construction is shaped by people. Sustaining a strong industry requires attracting and valuing a skilled, career-driven, high quality workforce... who also like to build! How is the construction industry attracting the skilled workforce for future growth market demands? Do prospective candidates see construction as a viable career choice?

Editor’s note: The following was written by Texas House of Representatives member Armando Walle exclusively for Construction Citizen.

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus recently directed Texas House committees to study important issues in advance of the next legislative session in 2015.  I am particularly pleased that Speaker Straus gave the House Committee on Business and Industry the assignment of “[Studying] the voluntary nature of workers' compensation in Texas and how it meets the needs of employers and employees.”

Texas is currently the only state in the nation that does not require workers' compensation coverage for private employers, including construction companies.  In fact, since 1913, Texas employers have been allowed to opt out of workers’ compensation coverage.  Civil legal action is frequently the only path to redress for an injured employee against their potentially negligent non-subscribing employer.

Unfortunately, even when a civil lawsuit is litigated in favor of a plaintiff employee, the practical benefits of the favorable judgment can often be low compared to a similar claim going through the workers’ comp system.   Read more » about Studying Workers’ Compensation Subscription: An Opportunity to Respect Workers

When you think of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), you probably think of technical workplace safety regulations.  However, don’t forget that OSHA is also responsible for enforcing the whistleblower provisions of twenty-two federal laws with anti-retaliation provisions.

OSHA maintains a separate website section for whistleblower issues at www.whistleblowers.gov.

OSHA received 2,787 whistleblower complaints during the last fiscal year.  More than half were complaints of retaliation for reporting workplace safety issues.  Complaints are expected to increase this year, because as of December 5, 2013, individuals may file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA using a simple online form.   Read more » about Beware of Whistleblower and Retaliation Claims

Workers' rights advocates in Austin are ramping up a push to hold Gables Residential accountable for the kind of working conditions that are reportedly prevalent on many of the Atlanta-based company's jobsites.  Led by organizers with the Workers Defense Project (WDP), about 200 people marched to the Gables Park Plaza in Austin on Saturday to demand safer conditions and better treatment.

In addition – and this is key – a worker the day before filed a lien on the property as a way to recover unpaid overtime.  The lien, of course, is a legal claim for unpaid wages that holds the owner legally responsible.  Heriberto Mendoza was a painter on the unfinished Gables Park Tower project who told Workers Defense that Flores Painting Services, a subcontractor on the Gables site, has failed to pay him overtime since he began work on the project in early January.   Read more » about Workers in Austin Fight Back Against Gables

We recently attended the signing ceremony for the first alliance between the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and MEMCO, a construction-oriented staffing agency.  Why was it important for us to cover that signing?

Worker safety is the most critical issue in the construction industry today, followed closely by training and certification.  The developing skilled worker shortage has increased the demand for those skilled workers, and construction oriented staffing agencies like MEMCO provide workers on a temporary or contract basis to clients around the country.  MEMCO and OSHA believe that it is critical that those temporary workers have safety training before they go to a worksite to avoid safety issues and reportable accidents when they are under contract.   Read more » about OSHA - MEMCO Alliance Signed in Houston [VIDEO]

Now that the state is moving forward with a targeted crackdown on the practice of worker misclassification, which some in the construction industry have called “a cancer,” lawmakers are going to work through the summer to figure out what more they can do when they reconvene in a regular session in 2015.

As you may recall, the Texas Legislature in 2013 passed a bill to root out misclassification on public works projects.  While many see that as a step in the right direction, it doesn't go nearly far enough to address the problem.  As our readers well know, worker misclassification happens when a company pretends its employees are independent subcontractors when by law the workers qualify as employees and therefore should receive benefits and have their taxes deducted and matched.  While there are many legitimate uses for subcontractors, the abuse happens when a company does this with the intent of skirting the law and avoiding payroll taxes.

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, has now instructed House members to “examine the issue of misclassifying employees as independent contractors [and the effect this practice has] on workers, employers, income tax withholding, and the unemployment insurance system.  Review current statutory deterrents, including those required by HB 2015 (83R), and make recommendations for changes if necessary.”   Read more » about Texas House to Study What More Should be Done on Worker Misclassification

Recent reports and studies have found that public education’s focus on 4-year college degrees has led to diminished emphasis on Career and Technical Education (CTE).  But with the growing disparity between the skills that industry employers are looking for and the skills which available workers have to offer, that focus is under strong reconsideration.

As part of our ongoing efforts to emphasize the importance of CTE as the key to narrowing the skills gap and raise awareness of the well-paying career opportunities in construction, Build Your Future (BYF) and NCCER are joining the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) in celebrating national Career and Technical Education Month all throughout February.   Read more » about February is National CTE Month! [VIDEO]

When talk of labor shortages has been floated in the past, it has often been customary for those sounding the alarm to be accused of “crying wolf”. But the evidence is rolling in from around the nation – and the world, really – that the problem is as real as it's ever been and it will only intensify if current trends hold.  There are some industry leaders, however, who are figuring out ways to combat these workforce issues in ways designed to keep their businesses out of a position like this again in the future.

Houston Public Radio recently quoted AGC of America Chief Economist and Construction Citizen Blogger Ken Simonson, who told the station that the oil and gas sector is driving most of Texas’s new construction activity:

“The drilling itself counts as mining, but every one of those well sites requires some kind of site preparation, a storage pond, housing for the pumping and processing machinery.  We’re also seeing a lot of rail construction to bring natural gas liquids or oil from the fields to the refineries.”

That activity in the oil and gas sector sets up a fierce competition for the folks in commercial construction.  One of our resident experts, Pat Kiley, has repeatedly pointed out there is a real war for talent in this environment.   Read more » about Business Leaders Point to Solutions as Labor Shortages are Reported Around the United States

Several advancements of Construction Career Collaborative were announced at the annual AGC Business meeting on January 23, 2014.

First, the Construction Career Collaborative (C3) is moving out of the beta phase which involved three Owners – MD Anderson, Texas Children’s Hospital and the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston – participating in six beta projects, involving five General Contractors, over 40 specialty contractors and hundreds of craft workers.  Owners can now specify the C3 principles on their entire work program or on an individual project basis.

Additionally, beginning in February the individual accreditation process of contractors and specialty contractors will begin.  Accreditation forms will be available online through a link on the C3 website.  There is an annual fee of $1,500 for accredited C3 contractors and specialty contractors.  The accreditation process will identify for our Owners the vast number of contractors and specialty contractors that value their craft workers   Read more » about C3 Announces Next Phase at AGC Houston Annual Meeting [VIDEO]

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