Remodeling received a letter from reader John Lawrence in response to Bill Atkinson's piece in our February print issue focused on regulations within our industry. The text of his letter appears below.

Dear Mr. Webb,

I read the article titled “Labor Pains” which appeared in the February issue of your publication, anticipating a litany of ridiculous government regulation “overreach,” as described on the cover. Instead, I found myself reading the article twice, certain that I had missed some “onerous” new requirement.

As a small business owner, I am unfamiliar with the burdens under which larger companies operate. That said, the two new rules packages discussed in the article simply seem to impose some level of fairness to the labor side of the workplace.

The “redefinition” of subs appears to address two main issues. One of the illegitimate classification of subs that allows contractors to skirt employment costs such as unemployment and worker’s compensation insurance, that are in place to protect employees. The second is abusive and unsafe work practices carried on by subcontractors, to which the general contractor may turn a blind eye to.

The new overtime rules are a reversal of a trend started during the Bush administration that used the Department of Labor as a tool for benefit employers, at the expense of employees. Using the example presented in your article, the $35K salaried assistant superintendent, making approximately $16.83 per hour for a 40 hour week, is actually expected to work, say, 45-60 hours a week if he wants to “move up.” That reduces his pay to from under $15 per hour to $11.22, depending on how much his employer can squeeze out of him. So, because the government will be “tying everyone’s hands” and not allowing employers to exploit these workers, benefits, bonuses and pathways for career advancement will be eliminated.

Is it any wonder that young people are not attracted to careers in building trades? I’m no big fan of the extreme parts and the application of the EPA’s lead paint rule and OSHA’s regulations. But overall gist of many of the rules is the codification of good and safe workplace practices. If the cost of building goes up, then the costs should be borne by those who want the building done. If they want to spend less, then they should scale back. We do ourselves no favors when we accommodate unrealistic cost expectations by underpaying, undervaluing, and exploiting our workforce.

John E. Lawrence
Owner, JL Home Improvement