Terraferma Rohrbach

At the first meeting of its ethics task force, members of the American Subcontractors Association did some soul searching. They recognize that improving ethics in the construction industry means not only improving how they are treated by general contractors, but also improving how subcontractors deal with suppliers.

“We want to raise the consciousness of the industry,” said ASA President Vincent Terraferma, of KSW Mechanical Services Inc., Long Island City, N.Y. Terraferma and the ASA board of directors charged the task force with developing and implementing programs to improve industry ethics. The task force meeting was part of ASA’s annual convention in Newport Beach, Calif., March 9-11.

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Task force member Kerrick Whisenant, of Cornerstone Detention Products Inc., Tanner, Ala., put it this way: “It’s not our job to rearrange the furniture, but it is our job to bring in the light and let everyone see the mess.”

Past President Anne Bigane Wilson, of Bigane Paving Co., Chicago, said, “General contractors don’t want to be bid-shopped by owners, but they do it to subs. Subs complain about general contractors, but do it to suppliers. The problem is that there is a fine line between bid shopping and negotiating.”

To task force chairman Tim McGuire, of McGuire Concrete Construction, Baltimore, the integrity guideline is clear and the same for every case: “How would I like to be treated in this situation?”

Cosmo Quiz. ASA developed questions to help subcontractors evaluate their own business practices.

ASA already has a document called the Professional Standards of Practice for Construction Subcontractors, and the task force will be working on raising this to a model code of ethics that companies can adopt for their businesses. It will continue its work using a discussion forum on ASA’s Website. The group also is distributing an integrity quiz so that subcontractors can evaluate their own business practices.

President-elect Stephen Rohrbach, of concrete contractor F.A. Rohrbach Inc., Allentown, Pa., says ASA’s continuing fight for retainage reform also involves ethics. “By the nature of it, retainage presumes that contractors are not ethical. My reputation is more important than any cash withheld.”