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This year, ABC of Greater Houston is celebrating 50 years of supporting the merit shop construction industry. On Thursday, April 25, members and community leaders gathered to commemorate the accomplishments of past chapter leaders and celebrate the chapter’s successes. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a proclamation in honor of the anniversary and declared April 25 as “ABC Houston Day.”

Founded in 1969, the ABC Greater Houston Chapter serves several hundred commercial and industrial contractors, suppliers and construction associates in the metropolitan area. “ABC has been a part of my family for over twenty years,” says 2019 ABC Greater Houston Chair Brandon Mabile, business development manager at Performance Contractors. “I’ve grown up with ABC, and I’m very excited to celebrate all that the chapter has done to help pave the way for contractors to work in an open shop environment with the business rights and freedoms we readily enjoy today.” 

Over the past 50 years, ABC of Greater Houston’s focus has been on educating its members, teaching the value of safety and encouraging political advocacy. The chapter, along with the other 68 ABC chapters, also works to recruit more people into the construction industry to address the shortage of skilled craft professionals.

“I’m honored to be able to serve the Houston chapter,” said Chapter President Russell Hamley. “I’ve been a part of the association for nearly 25 years, and I have seen the association grow in size and influence and expand our development and education programs. I’m excited about what the association will accomplish in the next 50 years.” 


Photo by Robert Chevis

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner gives a proclamation in recognition of ABC Greater Houston’s 50th anniversary with (from left to right) ABC Houston President Russell Hamley, City Council Member Mike Knox, 2019 Chairman Brandon Mabile and City Council Member Mike Laster.

On April 17, ABC joined state, local, tribal and community leaders in attending the White House Opportunity Zones Conference. More than 170 people from across the nation attended.



Opportunity Zones were established under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to incentivize long-term investments in low-income communities across the country by offering capital gains tax relief to investors. According to the White House, Opportunity Zones are anticipated to spur $100 billion in private capital investment, which will foster economic revitalization and job creation and promote sustainable economic growth. More than 8,760 communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five territories have been designated as Opportunity Zones.

The conference kicked off with remarks from federal leaders including U.S. Department of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, whose agencies unveiled updated guidance to encourage investment and development in economically distressed areas. (For more information about challenges and opportunities for contractors, read Construction Executive magazine’s coverage, “How the Construction Industry Can Take Advantage of Opportunity Zones.”)

During his remarks, President Donald Trump highlighted the tax cuts he signed into law and the growing economy. “Across the country, our tax cuts have kicked off a race to invest in Opportunity Zones beyond anything that anybody in this room even thought. In counties with heavy concentration of Opportunity Zones, wages have risen by now—it seems that we were talking about 8%, but it looks like it’s going to be a much higher number than that.” 

“Property sale prices in Opportunity Zones, if you have a home, have already skyrocketed by more than 20%. Secretary Mnuchin estimates that private businesses will invest $100 billion in Opportunity Zones, and that’s going to be in a fairly short period of time,” said Trump.  

The president also discussed the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, which he recently established to provide further support to Opportunity Zones. The council is chaired by Secretary Carson and comprised of 16 federal agencies. 

In addition to remarks from federal leaders, attendees listened to a panel discussion with federal, state and community leaders and participated in breakout sessions.  

Additional information from federal agencies can be found here:
Opportunity Zones resources
IRS frequently asked questions on Opportunity Zones
White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council Implementation Plan
U.S. Department of Treasury proposed regulations
HUD request for information

On Wednesday, April 17, ABC President and CEO Michael Bellaman joined Carolyn Lee, executive director at The Manufacturing Institute; Karen Pittman, co-founder and CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment; and Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, board chair and president of the Charles Schwab Foundation, for a Boys and Girls Club of America panel, Building a Diverse Talent Pipeline: The Policy and Business Case. 

Moderated by David Seaton, chairman and CEO of Fluor Corp., an ABC member company, the panel focused on why readying young people for life and the workforce is critical to the success of our future workforce, nation and economy. The panelists discussed how technology is changing day-to-day responsibilities in industries like manufacturing, the soft skills needed for youth to succeed professionally and, importantly, the many paths into today’s workforce that don’t require a four-year college degree.

“When we talk about the action in the K-12 arena, we need guidance counselors to talk about technical education with the same passion they talk about college degrees,” said Bellaman. He stressed that parents and teachers also need to encourage young people who show an interest in careers like welding to pursue that passion, noting that salaries for in-demand craft professionals can reach six figures. 

Bellaman also highlighted that the construction industry provides not just a job, but a well-paying career. As you don’t need a college degree, the barriers to entry are minimal, and the opportunity to grow, earn new credentials and move up through leadership with the “earn-while-you-learn” model is exceptional. 

ABC members invested $1.6 billion to educate their employees in 2018, up from $1.1 billion in 2013. The 45% increase in spending resulted in nearly twice as many course attendees—more than 980,000—receiving craft, leadership and safety education to advance their careers in commercial and industrial construction.

On April 15, ABC submitted comments expressing its support for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ proposed rule revising the definition of “water of the United States” under the Clean Water Act. ABC also filed comments as a member of the Waters Advocacy Coalition. 

As the result of President Trump’s Executive Order 13778 on “Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule,” the EPA and Corps published a proposed rule on Feb. 14 that seeks to provide businesses and landowners with clear definitions of what are and what are not “navigable waters” subject to federal jurisdiction under the CWA.

The agencies’ proposal outlines six categories of “waters of the United States” that would be subject to jurisdiction: traditional navigable waters, tributaries, certain ditches, certain lakes and ponds, impoundments and adjacent waters. The proposal also excludes waters that are not explicitly mentioned in these categories. 

In its comments, ABC stated its members appreciate the agencies’ “if it is not in, it is out” approach and believe that it will help alleviate confusion between jurisdictional and non-jurisdictional waters. Additionally, ABC offered several suggestions to improve upon the agencies’ proposal, including clarification of various key terms within the categories and the elimination of impoundments as a standalone category.

ABC has long been a vocal opponent of the Obama-era WOTUS rule since it was first proposed in April 2014, and in its comments on the 2019 proposal, ABC stated its continued commitment to work with the agencies and ensure the clearest possible regulations so that its members have the information they need to comply with the law.

On April 15, ABC submitted comments on the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s notice of proposed rulemaking, which would amend the FAA’s 2016 final rule and allow the operation of small unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, at night and over people under certain conditions without obtaining a waiver.

ABC welcomes the FAA’s proposal to ease certain restrictions on the use of small UAS without compromising the FAA’s valid safety objections. The use of this technology has had an immensely positive impact on today’s economy, and its potential for the future is enormous. 

ABC highlighted the following in its comment letter: 

Daylight-only Operations: ABC agrees with the FAA’s proposal to allow small UAS to operate at night without a waiver, as long as they are equipped with an anti-collision light that is visible for three statute miles. “Daylight-only” operations place severe limitations on the use of small UAS in the construction industry. For example, thermal imaging is a necessary tool, especially for roof inspections. Heat is absorbed during the day and at night it is released, allowing thermal imaging. Wet areas release heat slower than dry areas, showing needed repairs. Using small UAS to conduct this imaging is economical and reaches areas that could not be previously imaged or where human observation is dangerous. The UAS operator can safely perform the thermal imaging from the ground or a single location as opposed to traversing dangerous heights, especially at night, and risking an on-site injury. 

Operations Over People: ABC is pleased the proposal would allow the operation of small UAS over people who are not directly participating in the operation of the small UAS without obtaining a waiver. The current restriction is overly burdensome, particularly to those in the construction industry, where vertical structures in various stages of the construction process can more than adequately protect workers from potential UAS equipment failure. Risk can be further mitigated on a construction site by requiring all individuals working on the site to utilize and follow prescribed personal protective equipment and procedures, offering an orientation that educates workers about the UAS equipment prior to entering the work site and notifying workers of UAS operations prior to commencement of these operations while on site. Utilizing drones during the building process, including tasks at high elevations or tough-to-observe areas, can help to protect workers from potential worksite risks and injuries. In sum, this proposal will help to enhance safety on the construction site and make the building process more efficient. 

ABC’s comment letter also discussed the FAA’s rules on operations over moving vehicles, the visual line-of-sight requirement and the aeronautical knowledge test.

More information on drones can be found on the FAA website.

On March 29, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General released an audit report on the prevailing wage rates mandated by the Davis-Bacon Act on federal or federally assisted construction projects. 

Passed in 1931, the DBA requires contractors to pay no less than the local prevailing wage to on-site workers on federally funded construction projects costing more than $2,000.

Currently, the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division determines and updates these wage rates by conducting surveys to collect and compile data about hourly rates in four types of construction projects. For more than 20 years, the OIG, along with Office of Management and Budget, Government Accountability Office, U.S. Congress and other stakeholders, have raised concerns about the timeliness and accuracy of these rates, with a main concern being the potential bias produced by the voluntary nature of these wage surveys. 

According to the report, the OIG found that, as of September 2018, 3% of WHD’s 134,738 unique published rates, roughly 4,400, had not been updated in 21 to 40 years. 

Additionally, of seven sampled surveys that analyzed 124 wage rates, the OIG found 48% of the rates were not determined from data about a single construction worker within the 31 counties that the published rates represented.

Finally, the report found union wages prevailed for 48% of the wage determinations, despite the fact that just 12.8% of the U.S. private construction workforce is unionized. Furthermore, less than .01% of these 64,850 union wage rates were more than 10 years old, while 10% of the 69,888 nonunion wage rates were more than 10 years old. The report noted that union rates are typically updated when labor unions renegotiate collective bargaining agreements, while WHD must conduct new surveys to update nonunion rates.

As part of the report, the OIG listed eight recommendations to improve the overall quality and accuracy of DBA prevailing wage rates, which include developing and implementing a risk-based strategy to manage rates more than 10 years old and consulting with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to evaluate alternative methods to update wage rates, such as the Consumer Price Index and Occupational Employment Survey data. The OIG also noted contractors’ lack of participation in filling out these surveys and recommended continuing efforts to identify new strategies to increase participation and obtain more relevant wage rates. 

In addition to advocating for repeal of the DBA, ABC has made numerous recommendations over the years that could have mitigated some of the act’s damage to the economy, including the use of BLS data for wage determinations.

Research has found that state prevailing wage requirements increase the cost of construction. In New York, a 2017 report released by the Empire Center for Public Policy found that prevailing wage requirements inflated the cost of publicly funded construction projects in the state by 13 to 25%. The state of Ohio saved almost $500 million following the state’s repeal of prevailing wage rules on school construction, according to an Ohio Legislative Service Commission study published by the state.

Because of their anti-competitive and inflationary impact, 24 states have no prevailing wage laws and a total of eight states have repealed or significantly reformed their prevailing wage laws since 2015.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the federal government would spend less on construction, saving $12 billion in discretionary outlays from 2019 through 2028, if the Davis-Bacon Act was repealed, although industry stakeholders believe the overall savings would be much more, once accounting for the impact of repeal on state and local government-procured projects impacted by Davis-Bacon requirements.

The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston found that wages on federally funded construction projects under the DBA are grossly inflated. The February 2008 study compared the methods used by the BLS and the DOL’s Employment Standards Administration’s Wage and Hour Division to determine the prevailing wage for workers employed on federally funded construction projects.

The BHI study found the WHD’s inaccurate measurement of wages has several principal consequences for construction wages and costs: 

The WHD methods inflate wages by an average of 22%.
The WHD methods inflate construction costs on projects subject to the DBA by 9.91%.
The WHD methods unnecessarily raise construction costs by a total of $8.6 billion per year on projects subject to the DBA.

On March 28, 2019, a federal judge ruled that parts of the Trump administration’s 2018 final rule on association health plans were invalid. The U.S. Department of Labor has been directed to reconsider how the rest of the rule is affected by this ruling.  

The court specifically struck down two parts of the rule:

The provision defining “employer” to include associations of disparate employers; and
The provision expanding membership in these associations to include working owners without employees.

The ruling found that the DOL exceeded its authority under ERISA in how it defined employers.

Most of the plans ABC knows are currently being contemplated rely on state regulations and will not actually be affected by this court ruling. However, there are several that do make some use of the Federal AHP law changes and may need to go back to the drawing board.  

Contact Sam Melamed at [email protected] with any questions or concerns.

ABC is observing Construction Safety Week 2019 from May 6-10 with an awareness campaign highlighting member achievements in safety performance and our collective commitment to creating the conditions for all to do their work without incident and go home safe and healthy every day. 

Among the headline events of the week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will host its sixth annual National Safety Stand-down to Prevent Falls in Construction with events across the country to improve compliance and save lives. Although falls from heights decreased from 2016 to 2017 according to BLS data, falls are still the leading cause of death in the construction industry. 

OSHA encourages employers to take a break to focus on safety concerns surrounding falls from elevation. Stand-down events provide employers and employees the opportunity to discuss hazards, protective methods and the company’s safety and health programs, goals and expectations. Last year, thousands of worksites participated in the campaign and the stand-down event reached over a million workers. OSHA invites employers to dedicate themselves again to the safety of their most valuable resource: their workers.

ABC chapters and members can find local events to attend as well as guidance on hosting a stand-down and registering their event if it’s open to the public. Visit constructionsafetyweek.com for advice on engaging your team with an event guide, toolbox talks, messages to share and more ideas to promote safety as an industry priority. Look for daily Safety Week social media posts from ABC and Construction Executive, including highlights from the 2019 Safety Performance Report demonstrating the effectiveness of the STEP safety management system and articles featuring member safety performance leaders. Share your event plans by using the hashtags #ABCMeritShopProud and #SafetyWeek. Many chapters and members across the country are participating.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt attended a construction safety stand-down event on Monday at the site of the Texas Rangers Globe Life Field ballpark in Arlington, Texas. 


Pictured from left to right: John Reyhan, president of Manhattan Construction Company, the construction manager for the new stadium; Deputy Assistant Secretary Sweatt; 2019 ABC Chair Tony Rader and telecom vice president for National Roofing Partners; and Arlington, Texas, Mayor Jeff Williams.

ABC will be celebrating the seventh annual Infrastructure Week, May 13-20, with an awareness campaign highlighting the critical importance of infrastructure to America’s economic competitiveness, security, job creation and in the daily lives of Americans. The future of America will be shaped by the infrastructure-related choices we make today—so let’s all prepare to #BuildForTomorrow!

Join the many companies, organizations and cities hosting events nationwide and spreading the message in the press and on social media. Visit infrastructureweek.org for a plethora of resources including templates for op-eds, sharable factoids on America’s infrastructure and information how to participate or plan your own event. 

Be sure to look for daily Infrastructure Week social media posts on ABC National’s social media channels and follow the conversation using the hashtags #ABCMeritShopProud and #BuildForTomorrow.

ABC members should continue to monitor developments after a recent court order dealing with the EEO-1 form enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The form has long required employers with more than 100 employees and government contractors with more than 50 employees to list the number of their employees in job categories by race, ethnicity and gender. This data, known as “Component 1 data” is due this year by May 31, 2019.

However, there is controversy over a new set of data on the EEO-1 form called “Component 2 data,” which the Obama administration asked employers to start collecting for the first time this year. The new data would report employee compensation in “pay bands” by race, ethnicity and gender. During the Trump administration, the Office of Management and Budget blocked the EEOC from forcing employers to submit any compensation data until recently, when a court ordered the OMB stay to be vacated. The impact of the court order is to suddenly revive the burdensome pay data requirement with very little time for employers to respond. The EEOC has also told the court it is not ready to receive compensation data. 

 
At this time, the issue remains unsettled, and ABC is involved in efforts to reverse the court’s decision or at a minimum extend the time period for employers to comply with any new Component 2 pay data requirement. The Component 1 data is still due by May 31. We will keep members apprised of updates in the court case as they occur. 

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion.

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