News


Governor Abbott Proclaims Texas Masonry Construction Week

July 31, 2016

Governor Greg Abbott is encouraging all Texans to learn more about masonry construction by proclaiming July 31-August 6, 2016 as Texas Masonry Construction Week.   The proclamation mentions that Texas has a long history of building with high-quality masonry materials such as brick, block, and stone.  Some of the most iconic historical structures in Texas, the United States, and the world were constructed with masonry materials.  Examples in Texas include the Alamo, the State Capitol, and the San Jacinto Monument.

The Texas Masonry Council (TMC) is holding its annual convention during Texas Masonry Construction Week.  TMC's Executive Director, Lindsey Geeslin, said, "This proclamation is huge and shows that masonry is in demand in Texas.  Everyone in our organization is thankful and excited about this recognition."   TMC's Government Relations Specialist, Kelly Sadler, worked with the Governor's office on the proclamation and was instrumental in getting this opportunity to the Governor.

Over 250 masonry ordinances are in place currently in Texas.  To learn more about TMC or masonry ordinances visit texasmasonrycouncil.org or masonryordinance.com.  

 



Marek: Employers' practice of misclassifying workers cheat all of us

January 31, 2015

By Stan Marek

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 important, 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 University in 1969, after serving my active duty in the U.S. 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. We worked hard to keep our jobs secure. If our company did well, we would be provided for. And, we were.

Fast forward to today and my, how things have changed.

Many construction companies now look for ways to avoid having employees altogether. They don't want a bond between company and worker. The truth is they want as few strings as possible because having employees on the books means having to shell out for hourly pay, overtime, benefits, workers' comp, payroll taxes, compliance with employment laws and the possibility of being audited by the federal government to verify the immigration status of workers.

So what do they do?

In our industry, as in others, many companies "misclassify" their employees, which means they pretend their workers are "independent subcontractors" when by law they meet the definition of an employee. This practice allows those companies to get a pass on all the obligations of an employer, most of which protect the worker. Without employees, there are no minimum wage and overtime laws to abide by. There are no benefits like medical insurance, vacation and paid holidays. There is no workers' compensation insurance or jurisdiction from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to protect the worker. Taxes on labor are not withheld and sent to our federal government. The unemployment trust fund in Texas is dwindling as a direct result. And now that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, its employer mandates give companies even more incentive to unload their workers into the underground economy.

As taxpayers, we all suffer while the working man and woman take the brunt of it.

A bipartisan Texas House Committee report recently said, "A misclassifying employer compromises free markets through unfair competition and promulgates lawlessness." The panel noted that the Texas Workforce Commission found more than 60,000 workers had been misclassified in 2013, resulting in $8.6 million in unpaid taxes. I believe those numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. Keep in mind that the Workforce Commission can only identify a portion of what's really happening because the agency has limited resources.

It is already illegal to misclassify employees, but companies do it anyway because government enforcement and self-policing by the industry are sorely missing.

The elephant in the room is that many of these same workers lack legal status. Most began working under a traditional employer-employee relationship. But as immigration enforcement actions, which came as workplace raids under President Bush and now audits of employee-eligibility verification forms (I-9s) under President Obama, removed them from the rolls of legitimate employers, they migrated to the independent-contractor model.

You may think that when immigration audits identify illegal workers they are then deported. That's not true at all. The employer is simply required to terminate them. It seems they are rarely deported in those circumstances. So, many end up working for unscrupulous employers who call them independent contractors knowing the workers are unlikely to seek legal recourse.

Contractors who abide by the law cannot compete against those who use the independent-contractor business model. Those who cheat on their taxes in this fashion can underbid ethical contractors by as much as about 35 percent. While the cheaters get the contracts, middle-class jobs are falling by the wayside.

There is no doubt the federal government, including lawmakers from both parties, has failed us so far on immigration reform and other underlying issues facing our shrinking middle class. But there is time to turn the corner. Government action, however, is not sufficient.

Marek is president and CEO of the Marek Family of Companies, a specialty subcontractor based in Houston.

 


TMC Hires New Government Relations Specialist

May 2014

The Texas Masonry Council is pleased to announce the hiring of Mr. Tony Topping as its newest staff member.  Mr. Topping will serve in the capacity of Government Relations Specialist for the greater Houston area.  In his new role with TMC he will oversee all aspects of the Masonry Planning Policy program in the Houston area.  Tony comes to TMC with a wealth of knowledge in municipal planning and government relations having served the past 7 years as a City Council employee within the walls of Houston City Hall.  

Most recently Tony serves served as Houston Council Member Brenda Stardig's Agenda Director. Prior to joining Council Member Stardig’s staff in November 2013, Tony served as Chief of Staff to former Council Member Al Hoang where he oversaw all the day to day operations of the council office.  His first City Council position in Houston was with former Houston Council Member Peter Brown where he assisted with a wide range of planning and development policy issues, and set the agenda for the Sustainable Growth Committee, which Council Member Brown chaired.

Tony also previously served as a city planner for the city of Missouri City. As a city planner he handled platting and architecture reviews, rezoning cases, and other planning policy issues. Tony earned a bachelor's degree in political science as well as a master's degree in urban planning from Texas A&M University.  Tony is married to the lovely Kerri Topping and they will be purchasing a brick home in The Woodlands in May. 

“We are most fortunate to have someone with Tony’s pedigree in the Houston Market promoting masonry”, said TMC Chairman, Romeo Collazo.  “Houston may be the most important construction market in the country.  Tony will be very valuable as we attempt to change the City of Houston building code so that in the future it will would require the construction of masonry fire walls in new multifamily and commercial construction.  We hope everyone will welcome Tony on board with enthusiasm and encouragement.”