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BUILDING BLOC: How the Construction Industry Can Use the Vote to Shore Up the Foundation of Democracy

Posted By Juanita F. Ferguson, Bean Kinney & Korman, P.C. , Thursday, October 1, 2020

The construction industry has embraced the events of 2020 with a robust response that serves as a model of how to respond to crisis while maintaining an engaged workforce.  As we near the end of the year with improved methods of competing for projects, ensuring safe workplaces, and communicating with clients in a socially distant way, it is paramount that construction professionals and the counsel who advise them have a full appreciation of the deliberate steps that can be taken to support the voting process and to ensure that the Virginia Bar Association remains the vanguard in agitating for laws that support the concerns of the construction industry.  The 2020 general election is less than 40 days away and it is vital that every eligible voter has a plan of action in place for voting and for political advocacy.  Clear communication has always been the foundation of a successful construction project and the same principle is true in advocating for participation in the voting process.  Federal and state laws dictate what businesses can and cannot do in advising others about voting. But there is nothing that prohibits businesses from encouraging employees to ACT. 

Ask about voter registration.  Start with yourself and then ask others.  In order to be eligible to vote in the Commonwealth, a person must 1) be a U.S. citizen and a resident of the Commonwealth, 2) be 18 years of age by Election Day, i.e. November 3, 2020, 3) not registered to vote in another state, and 4) not declared incompetent by a court of law.  The deadline to register to vote in Virginia is October 13, 2020.  To register online, access Registration status can be confirmed at Persons needing to vote by absentee ballot must make a request by mail for a ballot with their local election official by October 23, 2020.  In person requests for absentee ballots must be made by October 31, 2020 at the general registrar’s office of the local jurisdictions. 

Contributing to campaigns. It is no secret that the industry is comprised of powerful lobbying arms that do promote candidates whose views align with issues that favor the interests of members of the construction industry.  While individual employees of public sector employers are free to engage in political activity, it is a violation of Va. Code §15.2-1512.2 to coerce or attempt to coerce subordinate certain public employees to contribute to a political party, candidate, or campaign.  Even though Virginia does not have specific protections for private-sector employees, private employers should be cautious that any policies directed towards political activity in the workplace are nonpartisan and applied in an unbiased manner. 

Track legislation.  Candidates make promises to garner funding for their campaigns, but the stress test is the voting record on issues that affect your businesses’ or clients’ interests. Visit to view the voting record of every member of the Virginia General Assembly.  For United States representatives the site is Virginia is expected to enact at least two laws in 2021 that will have a significant impact on the cost of managing construction projects:  House Bill  833 and Senate Bill 8, both passed by the General Assembly, will result in prevailing wage requirements on public works projects  beginning May 2021.  House Bill 358 and Senate Bill 182, also set to take effect in 2021, will allow project labor agreements on public projects.  Both pieces of legislation have far-reaching consequences for contractors.

Closeout of a construction project is comparable to having a plan in place leading up to the general election.  Failure to consider all the related tasks can spell disaster and result in unintended consequences.  But with proper execution, it can be rewarding and set an example for years to come.

Juanita F. Ferguson is a shareholder with Bean Kinney & Korman, P.C. in Arlington, VA.  Her practice includes construction and real estate litigation.

Tags:  construction  democracy  vote 

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