Toolbox Tuesday: Inequality rising

Why are middle class construction jobs so important to the economy? This graphic maps wealth and income distribution from 1962 to 2010. The picture it paints is stark. During this time period, the richest have become richer and the poorest have become poorer.

Worth noting:

  • The richest 20 percent claim 46 percent of American income in 1962, and almost 60 percent of income in 2010.  Their share of non-home wealth (not including home equity) went from 86.1 percent to 95.4 percent over the same span.
  • After widening in the 1970s, the inequality of net worth (the red line is the gini coefficient measure of inequality) was pretty flat through 2007, but spike sharply between 2007 and 2010.
Construction is one of the few remaining US industries that provide pathways to middle class careers. Still, it is an industry with two faces. It contains workers from all walks of life and can can exploit workers in dangerous and temporary dead-end jobs, or it can provide high quality, lifelong career opportunities. Given the trends of growing income inequality, will these middle class careers last?

Graphic by Colin Gordon, The Telltale Chart and Iowa Policy Project

Every Tuesday the Construction Academy posts a graphic, chart or other resource to demystify the construction industry. To receive updates, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Do you have graphics or resources you’d like us to feature? Let us know!

Toolbox Tuesday: A Greener Future for Business

McGraw Hill just released a study showing that green building is accelerating globally despite the economic downturn.

Top findings from the study include:

  • Green building has become a long-term business opportunity with 51% percent of study firms planning more than 60 % of their work to be green by 2015, up from 28 percent of firms in 2012
  • The largest opportunity areas for green building globally are in new commercial construction and renovation of existing buildings

Why are firms taking on more green construction work?

  • Overwhelmingly, firms report that their top reasons to do green work are client demand (35 percent) and market demand (33 percent)—two key business drivers of strategic planning.
  • The next top reasons were also oriented toward the corporate bottom line—lower operating costs (30 percent) and branding advantage (30 percent).
These findings show that the market around energy efficient construction is shifting. Rather than contractors increasing these projects because of personal motivations, market demand for green work is on the rise.  Construction is increasingly going green because it is the right move for business.

Read more about the study.

Find out how to take advantage of this surge in green. Download Beyond Green Jobs.

Graphic by the California Construction Academy
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building Trades Council

Every Tuesday the Construction Academy posts a graphic, chart or other resource to demystify the construction industry. To receive updates, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Do you have graphics or resources you’d like us to feature? Let us know!

What does it really take to create a green economy?

Daniel Villao, Frying Pan News, July 17, 2012

The Frying Pan blog features a post by Daniel Villao, Director of the California Construction Academy. “One central challenge to building a green economy is that for many, the inner workings of a key pillar of that economy — the construction industry — are a mystery.” Daniel describes the differences between the many shades of green, and how going deep green creates pathways to lifelong careers.

Read the article.

CCA Seeks Research Director

CCA is seeking a Research Director for the California Construction Academy. Please share with your networks!

About Us
The California Construction Academy (CCA), a project of the UCLA Labor
Center, is dedicated to building a better construction industry
through facilitation, research and popular education. CCA envisions a
construction industry that leads the nation in triple bottom line
returns—for the environment, economy and society. By producing high
quality, responsive research, CCA sets the tone for public debate on
construction. CCA also takes complex ideas and makes them accessible
to multiple audiences by creating educational materials, such as
training modules, games and interactive tools, for students and
partner organizations. Find out more at:

Position Summary
CCA produces high quality, responsive research that sets the tone for
the public debate on construction. CCA’s Research Director will
develop research and educational materials that are timely, easy to
understand, and useful for diverse stakeholders who seek to create
quality construction careers. The Research Director will create
regular reports on construction industry updates, trends, challenges,
opportunities, and prominent public and private sector construction
projects. The Research Director will also produce more comprehensive
research reports on topics including workforce development, registered
apprenticeships, project labor agreements, energy efficiency
construction, and large-scale infrastructure and transportation

CCA seeks an individual who is passionate about social equity, and can
bring a strategic approach for short- and long-term planning and
implementation to the team. The Research Director will work closely
and collaboratively with CCA’s Director, Community Engagement
Director, Communications Director, and other Program Coordinators to
meet the program’s goals.

Download job description for details.

Beyond Green Jobs on Sierra Club Radio

Orli Cotel, Sierra Club Radio, May 5th

Sierra Club Radio recently interviewed CCA Director, Daniel Villao and CCA Research Director, Uyen Le to talk about the new book, Beyond Green Jobs: Building Lasting Opportunities in Energy Efficiency.

Villao talked about the difference that a comprehensive energy efficiency approach makes for jobs. Rather than training a worker to replace lightbulbs, it is possible to train a worker to become an electrician and have a lifelong career.

Le discussed the range of different programs on the ground that are advancing good green careers, despite the economic downturn.

Find the May 5th podcast on Sierra Club’s site.  The segment begins at 19:06.
Go directly to the mp3 link and play.

48% of LAUSD Construction Dollars Go to Small Businesses

Photo: Miguel Contreras Learning Complex. Credit: Magnus Stark for LAUSD, 2011. 

Nov 18, 2011

Download the press release
Download the full report

Los Angeles, CA – In the midst of the current jobs crisis, a new UCLA report shows that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has managed to create exceptional opportunities for small and disadvantaged businesses.

The California Construction Academy at the UCLA Labor Center released a report today evaluating construction projects under Los Angeles Unified School District’s Project Stabilization Agreement (PSA) from 2003 to 2011 and found that 48% of construction project dollars went to small and disadvantaged businesses. This far surpassed LAUSD’s goal to ensure that 25% of construction project dollars went to small business enterprises (SBE). Out of a total of $8.68 billion that LAUSD spent on construction projects, $4.15 billion went to small and disadvantaged businesses. Out of 496 total prime contractors, 219 prime contractors were SBEs. 1,194 subcontractors were SBEs out of 4,773 total subcontractors.

These projects also created large numbers of local jobs with family sustaining wages and benefits. Construction projects under the LAUSD PSA employed a total of 96,000 workers who gained an aggregate of $1.46 billion in wages. 41% of these workers live in target zip codes local to LAUSD districts, and 68% of these workers live in Los Angeles County.

“We believe this research shows the importance of implementing construction policies that go beyond just building infrastructure,” says Daniel Villao. “Thoughtful construction policies such as Project Labor Agreements and Project Stabilization Agreements can also build better jobs for local workers and grow small businesses.”

A Project Stabilization Agreement (PSA), more commonly called a Project Labor Agreement (PLA), is a contract between the owner or managing entity of a construction project or a collection of associated projects, and a set of labor unions. Much like “job-site constitutions,” these contracts establish terms regarding worksite conditions, project execution and protocol to resolve labor disputes without resorting to labor strikes and employer lockouts. Most PLAs/PSAs include community workforce goals that increase access to construction jobs for veterans, local residents, disadvantaged workers, and small businesses.

By using a PSA, LAUSD was able to address the dual goals of modernizing schools and creating local job opportunities. “It was critical for the LAUSD to address the problem of overcrowding and inadequate facilities in school and also the problem of students needing to be bussed two hours in order to get to a school that was less crowded,” says Mónica García, LAUSD Board of
Education President. “The board also wanted to create more small business opportunities for contractors who could benefit from working with the LAUSD.”

Key to LAUSD’s success was its dedication to hire a third-party administrator, Parsons Construction Inc. (PCI), and to create direct ties to the “We Build” pre-apprenticeship program. Full-time staff dedicated to PSA compliance and to “We Build” allowed LAUSD to help prepare small businesses to bid and prepare disadvantaged workers for registered apprenticeships. Providing both incentives and enforcement allowed staff to comply with and exceed the small business goals of the PSA.

Anabel Barragan, “We Build” Program Manager, pointed out the importance of linking the LAUSD PSA with a program to connect workers with registered apprenticeships. “This helped ensure that LAUSD leadership at all levels were aware of LAUSD construction program goals, and worked collaboratively to achieve them. It created a culture within the organization of awareness and compliance that continues to help LAUSD.”

Telenet VOIP, a construction contractor that decided to become a union signatory contractor while working with LAUSD, found that the Project Stabilization Agreement opened opportunities for small businesses. “Working with the LAUSD under a Project Stabilization Agreement allowed us a level playing field,” says Thea Leonardo, Labor Compliance Manager at Telenet VOIP, “Because the PSA required a set prevailing wage, we were able to compete fairly and to have a competitive bid.”

The California Construction Academy (CCA) at the UCLA Labor Center is a statewide project dedicated to building a better construction industry through facilitation, research and popular education. CCA envisions a construction industry that leads the state of California in triple bottom line returns in the form of environmental, economic and social benefits.


Contact: Stefanie Ritoper,, (213) 375-4841.