The headline in the City/State section of a recent Houston Chronicle states, “Construction contractors get a pay bump” and, as reported by Zach Despart a staff writer for the Houston Chronicle, the Harris County Commissioners Court on August 27, passed an 8 part item that includes the establishment of a new set of criteria for all “buildings” using Federal funds built by Harris County. This initiative was passed after a “working group” of department heads and representatives from each commissioners' office worked with the county attorney to propose the new guidelines for projects that include Federal monies flowing into the region to rebuild after Harvey and possibly for all County projects. These changes come on the heels of similar changes in the City of Houston made recently.
When Commissioner Jack Cagle asked for items 1 and 4 to be held until there was a definite listing of the costs for the changes and for the “second chance” program, Commissioner Ellis, the official who spearheaded the changes and who is the master of Robert’s Rules of Order, proposed a separate motion to pass items 1 and 4 and to extend and expand the role of the working group for 6 months to investigate how these same rules could be applied to all County projects.
The guidelines include what Commissioner Ellis calls, “a living wage of $15 per hour,” safety training, Insurance benefits for the workers on Harris County projects, certified payroll from the contractors and subs who would be awarded projects.
We have listed the points from the agenda below.
“Harris county commissioners court agenda 8/27/2019.
Request for approval of policy recommendations for community workforce development and worker protection provisions:
1. Recommendation for the court to consider the approval of a $15 minimum prevailing wage rate for all building and multi-family construction contracts to be implemented by the Purchasing Agent. - Passed
2. Recommendation for the Purchasing Agent, Office of the County Engineer, and County Attorney to establish evaluation criteria for contractor safety record consideration for all construction projects and develop a policy recommendation. - Passed
3. Recommendation for the Purchasing Agent, Office of the County Engineer, and County Attorney to establish evaluation criteria for health insurance coverage consideration for all construction projects and develop a policy recommendation. - Passed
4. Recommendation for the Purchasing Agent to adopt a second chance hiring policy for all construction projects and encourage the applicability
to all county vendors. - Passed
5. Acknowledgment that the department is compliant with Section 3 numerical goals and will work toward a robust Section 3 reporting system to track work hours performed by Section 3 residents and inform the court of progress and future policy recommendations. - Passed
6. Acknowledgment that the department shall commit to providing workforce training and apprenticeship opportunities as part of the public services allocation and shall be incorporated with the Section 3 program goals. - Passed
7. Approval for the department to establish policies that will require all prime and subcontractors to provide OSHA 10 training for all workers and OSHA 30 training for supervisors working on CDBG-EN and CDBG-DR funded projects. - Passed
8. Acknowledgment that all building projects shall be designed and constructed in accordance with the county’s policy on LEED buildings and/or the Harris County Low Impact Development & Green Infrastructure Design Criteria for storm water management. – Passed “
In an environment of major skilled labor shortages, the passage of these new guidelines and the additional benefits for workers that might come from the next working group report will make the county more competitive, will meet federal funding guidelines, and will create the demand for additional training programs throughout the Houston region.
We would encourage them to consider how safety and skills training that exists in the private sector can play a role in this expanded role.
For those of you interested in the conversation and testimony from the Commissioners' Court meeting of that day, you can listen to the first 1 hour and 26 minutes of this video under Item 1 (part 3 of 3) here: http://harriscountytx.swagit.com/play/08272019-1010