A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

With a massive rebuilding effort set to get underway, the need is greater than ever for an alternative to deportations and a wall meant to keep out many of the very people who will be responsible for restoration of the Gulf Coast.
September 08, 2017
The Houston Chronicle published an article recently about our undocumented workforce, primarily in the construction industry, and it deserves an immediate response.The author laid it out very well. The undocumented workforce is and has been providing cheap labor for over three decades and they would be sorely missed if deportations continue without an immigration reform bill.But there seems to be a misunderstanding about the root of the problem. It’s not just that so many are in this nation without documentation. It’s that they have never been employees. The way most people employ them – including homebuilders who have very few if any skilled craftsmen on payroll – is as independent subcontractors.
March 02, 2017
President Trump's hastily arranged ban on foreigners traveling to the United States from select countries sparked protests, invited a court fight, and helped make the case for large-scale immigration reform - even if that last result was not a consequence he intended.During the campaign and in defending his most recent immigration actions, Trump repeatedly has made the argument that we need to know who is here and what their intentions are toward the United States. On that, he could not be more correct.But instead of governing in precisely the way that Republicans for years criticized President Obama - issuing executive orders only to have them quickly and aggressively challenged in federal court - President Trump could seize the moment of a unified GOP government in Washington and work with leaders in his own party to enact a meaningful and lasting solution. Without giving anyone a free pass, the time is right to identify and tax those who are now living in the shadows.   
February 23, 2017
As the debate about illegal immigration rages at the national level thanks to the vitriolic rhetoric of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, it's high time for all of us to take a look at how the broken system is negatively affecting people right here in our own community.My entire career has been spent in construction, so I've been perfectly positioned to see how this mess has evolved over the past few decades. Rather than rehash arguments I've made previously - arguments I will continue to make in the future - I'd like to share with you the story of a young woman whose experience is all too common here in Southeast Texas.   
September 27, 2016
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.   
April 28, 2016
The following was originally published as an op-ed in The Houston Chronicle.  Reprinted with permission.Our national security and energy independence are at risk because the United States has yet to address workforce issues critical to the Texas Gulf Coast.  Let me explain.I recently attended a conference in which two very informative speakers shared their perspectives on the oil and petrochemical industries.  The first speaker gave an eye-opening presentation about why so much of the industry along the Texas coast is foreign-owned.  It shouldn't surprise anyone that the low cost of natural gas, thanks to advances in exploration and fracking, is making it an attractive proposition.  The price is right and the supply is impressive.But the perhaps less obvious and important factor is the political and economic stability of our country.  If businesses and governments are going to put billions of dollars into refineries and infrastructure, they want to be assured their investment is protected.Another speaker at the conference explained the scope of work on the books for the next 10 years.  Estimates of confirmed and proposed construction projects exceeded $350 billion.  As someone who's been in construction for decades, I can tell you that is a staggering number.  Even if 10 percent of those projects are canceled, the amount of work is unprecedented.  The challenge will be finding the manpower to build and maintain the facilities.  It is simply not possible for our existing workforce to come anywhere close to filling the need.  
October 29, 2015
I love the construction industry and I speak from experience when telling you it has to be saved from itself. Since 1938, our family business has helped build the monuments of this city and this state. More importantly, our companies – like many others over the past 75 years – have helped tens of thousands of hard-working Americans enjoy an honorable blue collar, middle class standard of living. But, now our middle class is threatened like never before.When I graduated from Texas A&M in 1969, after serving my active duty in the Marine Corps Reserves, I joined the local carpenters union as a drywall mechanic. Wages and benefits were very good and it was indeed a quality, middle class occupation. The non-union tradespeople enjoyed the same kind of lifestyle. We all received good hourly pay, overtime, worker’s compensation insurance protection and had employment taxes deducted and paid. There was a bond between company and worker.   
February 04, 2015
The following was originally published as an op-ed in The Houston Chronicle.  Reprinted with permission.Now that the election is over, political news has quickly become dominated by the impending immigration showdown between President Barack Obama and the Republicans on Capitol Hill.  In my opinion as an employer, the president's intent to use an executive order to extend legal status to millions of undocumented people in our country is simply misunderstood.  To the tea party, it is amnesty.  To the faith community, it represents compassion.  As a practical matter, it's just a reflection of reality.Two years ago, in the face of congressional inaction, Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which has become commonly known as the administrative DREAM Act.  This gave foreign-born children who illegally entered the country before their 18th birthday an opportunity to seek legal status, granting them the right to work.  But it wasn't just given out like candy, as some suggest.  These young people who were brought here through no fault of their own had to pass a criminal background check, pay $485, and the whole process has to be repeated every two years.  
December 02, 2014
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.  
December 03, 2013
As a longtime supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, I am more optimistic than ever about a real solution coming out of Washington.  The partisanship and ideology surrounding the issue are melting away, replaced by pragmatism and a realization that we cannot continue the status quo.As a conservative Republican businessman, I've been disappointed over the years to see many in my own party become completely intractable on the issue.  But, there are real leaders emerging who want to set aside the divisions of the past, roll up their sleeves, and craft reform that improves our economy and corrects years of social injustice.  GOP Texas Congressmen Ted Poe, Sam Johnson, John Carter and Pete Olson all now support comprehensive reform that includes a robust guest worker program.  
October 02, 2013