Construction Citizen attended a lecture this week about Ethical Dilemmas in Construction Industry Labor Practices at Texas A&M University along with over 275 students and professors from the Department of Construction Science at the university. Guest speakers delivered the lecture, which was hosted by Professor Joe Horlen.
Stan Marek, CEO of Marek Brothers Systems, Inc. explained the current conditions in the labor market to the audience. He highlighted that the current model for labor where many companies pay cash and not benefits would not work when the market recovers from this recession. He explained that the use of workers who are many times misclassified as independent contractors creates untenable environments where employers do not pay for benefits or overtime. Several of those “cheaters”, as attorneys label them, have been brought under scrutiny after major accidents on their projects such as the case in Austin we wrote about last fall.
Second, one of our bloggers, Mike Holland, Division President of Marek Brothers in Houston, outlined the ethical dilemma that the students will face when they go to work for general contractors or owners and are faced with how to hire labor for their projects. He discussed the new movement in the industry by a number of owners, contractors and specialty subcontractors to create an industry where workers are paid fairly, paid overtime, given benefits, and where paid taxes become the rule, not the exception. He illustrated the principles that the alliance is creating and endorsing and gave the audience a road map for ethical operations and decisions.
Third, John Stautner, founding technologist of ConstructionCitizen.com offered students a way to “engage now” by submitting their observations, ideas and research to firstname.lastname@example.org. Their submissions will be considered for publication on the blog, which has a mission to advance a sustainable and socially responsible construction industry. After the lecture, Professor Horlen distributed questions to students to help them with topics for their blog post submissions, and Stan Marek added a $250 award for the best submission, which will be judged by Professor Horlen. All student submissions will be considered for possible publication. Only students currently enrolled in the Construction Science Department of Texas A&M are eligible for the award.
The team ended the session by answering questions from the audience on a wide range of subjects including the hiring of illegals on construction sites, the Dream Act, immigration reform, the current labor bills that have been introduced into the Texas Legislature and the enforcement of the new misclassification and wage theft laws that have been put into effect in 30 states around the country.
View the slide show from the presentation.