Capitol Update 11/16/2022
October 31, 2022
In a new memo, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo announced her intention to protect employees, to the greatest extent possible, from intrusive or abusive electronic monitoring and automated management practices through vigorously enforcing current law and by urging the Board to apply settled labor-law principles in a new framework.
The memo describes various technologies that are increasingly being used to closely monitor and manage employees. For instance, some employers record workers’ conversations and track their movements using wearable devices, cameras, radio-frequency identification badges and GPS tracking devices. And some employers monitor employees’ computers with keyloggers and software that takes screenshots, webcam photos, or audio recordings throughout the day. Employers may use this data to manage employee productivity, including disciplining employees who fall short of quotas, penalizing employees for taking leave, and providing individualized directives throughout the workday.
“It concerns me that employers could use these technologies to interfere with the exercise of Section 7 rights under the National Labor Relations Act by significantly impairing or negating employees’ ability to engage in protected activity—and to keep that activity confidential from their employer,” said General Counsel Abruzzo. “Thus, I plan to urge the Board, to the greatest extent possible, to apply the Act to protect employees from intrusive or abusive electronic monitoring and automated management practices that would have a tendency to interfere with Section 7 rights.”
The General Counsel will urge the Board to adopt a new framework for protecting employees from employers’ abuse of technology by holding that an employer has presumptively violated the Act where an employer’s surveillance and management practices, viewed as a whole, would tend to interfere with or prevent a reasonable employee from engaging in activity protected by the Act. If the employer’s business need outweighs employees’ Section 7 rights, unless the employer demonstrates that special circumstances require covert use of the technologies, she will urge the Board to require the employer to disclose to employees the technologies it uses to monitor and manage them, its reasons for doing so, and how it is using the information it obtains.
The memo also notes that the General Counsel is committed to an interagency approach to these issues, as numerous agencies across the federal government are working to prevent employers from violating federal law using electronic surveillance and algorithmic management technologies. The General Counsel has recently signed agreements with the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Labor which will facilitate information sharing and coordinated enforcement on these issues
Nonresidential construction input costs have ballooned 16% over the past year as challenges to the industry from the pandemic have not relented, says Justin Brown, CEO of Skender. Brown also cites rising interest rates and supply chain snarls that continue to affect many materials and predicts that with “an expected recession and uncertain economic headwinds, our industry will inevitably experience some contraction.” Full Story: GlobeSt (free registration)
The construction industry added 1,000 jobs in October, down sharply from an average of 19,400 additional jobs during the preceding five months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Construction unemployment rose to 4.1% from 4% in October 2021 and from 3.4% in September. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)
A 13% gain in the commercial component powered by office and hotel planning helped lift the Dodge Momentum Index to an overall gain of 9.6% in October and a reading of 199.7. The institutional component was also up, by 2.9%, with some categories advancing and others in decline. Full Story: Dodge Data & Analytics
A total of 6,200 projects have been identified for funding and $185 billion has been distributed for work under the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law, the White House announced. “We’re just a year in, so nobody should have reasonably expected that within a year we were going to spend more money than has ever been spent in the history of the country — and if we did would have wasted 90% of it,” said Mitch Landrieu, the White House’s infrastructure implementation coordinator. Full Story: Reuters
Although a mixed message from Tuesday’s midterm elections is expected to keep Congress occupied with position-focused politics until the next election, the construction industry can expect follow-through on a number of infrastructure priorities, industry observers say. These include the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program and possibly a new Water Resources Development Act. Full Story: Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)
Late payments cost construction industry $208B in 2022: report
Late payments continue to plague the construction industry and inflict significant financial damage to contractors, according to a survey from construction finance software firm Rabbet conducted in September. In the past year, late financial payments cost the industry $208 billion. The figure is a 53% increase from 2021’s total of $136 billion. The report noted, however, that while the increase was large, it was par for the course given the turbulent economic climate surrounding contractors, which is currently fueled by inflation and interest rate hikes. In addition to the financial burden, 37% of all respondents reported that late payments led to delays or work stoppages. The survey said that some contractors reported boosting their bids from 5% to 10% to help absorb costs
In October, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 0.4 percent, seasonally adjusted, and rose 7.7 percent over the last 12 months, not seasonally adjusted. The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.3 percent in October (SA); up 6.3 percent over the year (NSA).
Eighty-five percent of commercial real estate project managers and developers surveyed by Northspyre say they plan to be more careful with their purchasing decisions in the new year amid inflationary pressures. Inadequate productivity and uncertain project outcomes were also rated as top concerns, while a majority of respondents cited inflation as a “moderate-to-major” factor. Full Story: GlobeSt (free registration)
Economists project that inflation could have moderated slightly in October while still remaining elevated, potentially opening the door for another large interest-rate hike from the Federal Reserve. “If the labor market is surprising us with strength and resilience, then we shouldn’t anticipate a different outcome with consumer prices,” said Carl Riccadonna of BNP Paribas, speaking ahead of an inflation report due today. Full Story: Bloomberg
A new generation in construction more comfortable with technology is expected to advance the use of robots in the industry in the drive to make up for labor shortages and improve efficiency. Ian Harvey interviews industry leaders on the subject and notes examples of how robots will play various roles in construction. Full Story: Daily Commercial News (Ontario)
The Energy Department has announced that $1.5 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act will be used to build and upgrade national laboratories across the country managed by the Office of Science. The funding will upgrade facilities; help with construction of high energy physics, fusion energy science and nuclear physics construction; and modernize infrastructure in the laboratories that are regional hubs for clean energy innovation. Full Story: Nextgov Engineering News-Record (tiered subscription model)
The Newport Beach, Calif.-based Irvine Co. is reportedly planning four office and research buildings for life sciences offering a total of 532,000 square feet. No schedule for the start of construction has been announced for the planned site, which will be near the University of California at Irvine campus. Full Story: GlobeSt (free registration)
The Transportation Department is being asked to help fund a light-rail line to connect Los Angeles’ Union Station to smaller communities in southeast Los Angeles County. The proposal from Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., requests $50 million to start the project, which includes a subway portion and would extend 19.3 miles. Full Story: Los Angeles Daily News