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New numbers reveal the harsh reality for Texas construction workers: a majority work over 40 hours each week yet 52 percent still live in poverty.  The construction industry in Texas is said to be booming, especially when compared with the industry in other regions, but the uptick in projects and funding does not seem to be making its way down to the (often undocumented) worker.  

The construction industry accounts for one in every 20 dollars taken in by the Texas economy and over 10 percent of the construction output in the United States. Yet,  conditions on job sites are among the worst in the nation:

Approximately one in every thirteen people in the Texas workforce labors in construction, with a total population of almost 1,000,000 workers laboring in the Texas construction industry.

Build a Better Texas uncovers illegal and hazardous workplace practices on the majority of worksites throughout the state. One in five workers reported having suffered a work related injury that required medical attention. Texas is ranked the most deadly state to work in construction.

Over one in five (22%) of Texas construction workers report not being paid for their work, and though the majority of workers work at least 40 hours a week, nearly half still live in poverty (52%).

Additionally, payroll fraud or misclassification of workers as independent subcontractors has become a common practice in the industry, with 41% of workers reporting they were misclassified.

Dangerous conditions hurt workers physically and misclassification hurts workers AND the state economically.  Texas loses $54.5 million annually in unemployment insurance according to Build a Better Texas.  This in addition to tax revenue and hundreds of millions more in federal income tax.   Competition is also degraded as those who follow the law are at a disadvantage against unscrupulous contractors. According to Stan Marek, CEO of Marek Brothers Construction,
"We are being strangled by our competitors who are breaking the law. There is just no way to compete in a market like this. It used to be that if you ran your business honestly and treated your workers right you could do well, but all that has changed.
As we reported last week members of both parties are working this legislative session to combat the growing problem of worker misclassification.  Their motives range from protecting workers to protecting business owners but nearly all agree something has to change quickly soon. According to state Senator José Rodriguez from El Paso,
"Given the economic significance of the construction industry to the state and region, it's crucial that we act to protect the rights of workers and level the playing field for honest businesses to compete.

Originally posted to WePartyPatriots on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 08:00 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions, Anti-Capitalist Chat, and Pink Clubhouse.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Another mission is accomplished nt (3+ / 0-)
  •  Shameful state of labor in this country. (5+ / 0-)

    Organized labor and unorganized both.

    Governments care only as much as their citizens force them to care. Nothing changes unless we change -- George Monbiot.

    by Nulwee on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 08:45:22 AM PST

  •  Our economy is broken. (6+ / 0-)

    I don't work in construction, but I can identify with much of this. There are very few "jobs" in some areas any longer; everything is handled on a contract basis, allowing employers to escape many of the employee protections to which they'd otherwise be required to comply.

    I work in what were once considered to be hot areas of the economy—technology, finance, data mining and research, social media—and have been working on a contract basis almost exclusively since the late '90s.

    I also teach and have taught at a number of major universities, have advised undergraduate honors theses, and participated in departmental curriculum and policy review and development—also always on a part-time, semester-contract basis. In some cases, my low-pay "contract" work has involved more hours and longer terms of engagement (i.e. years with the institution) than many employees (i.e. tenured professors and staff), with better evaluations and outcomes and students imagining that I must be a bigtime player in the department. But once you're seen as a "contractor" and your resume/CV are littered with contract work, you're marked—not employee material, just a contractor.

    I've experienced:

    - Spec work (pay based on revenue gains) that was defined in such a way that after a year+ of labor, they found a way to interpret definitions so as to pay me nothing—after which they cheekily encouraged me to stay on and keep producing for them with promises of what I "could" earn down the road if things "work out differently next time"

    - Irregular pay (in odd balloon payments every N or N+1 months, despite biweekly being in the contract) with the explanation that in tough times, employees and bonuses get paid first, and contractors ought to just bite their tongues about it if they want the contract to be renewed for the next period

    - Unsafe working conditions—no heat, condemned buildings and poor ergonomics, liabilities being made mine rather than the company's, and so on

    - Promises that the contract term was just a "trial," with full employment to follow after N months, which never comes—N months stretches to N years and they're happy to keep you on, keep you working without benefits and at a lower wage, and promise you that you'll be made an employee "real soon now"

    - Bald-faced nonpayment and simple so-what-ism—usually concluding with "so sue us, and if you win, you'll have your money"—when the work has gone on to be delivered in products or to perform for the company precisely as expected even as I earned nothing from it, despite contractual terms

    Even more infuriating is that when you leave under these conditions, any future potential contracting company that inquires about your performance will hear that you left on poor terms, you had unreasonable expectations, you made trouble, and so on.

    The world of contracting, which is a growing sphere of employment encompassing an increasingly large territory of what were once jobs, is very much the wild, wild west. It's "kill or be killed" and "every man and company for themselves" out there. Employers don't do it because it's friendly and efficient; they do it because it saves them the expenses involved in complying with labor regulations, period. Too often, it's plain and simple "perfectly marketable free or nearly free work from people that we can treat as subhuman without legal ramifications."

    I'm really unhappy to be stuck in contracting, but good jobs are increasingly hard to find, particularly in my areas; they've been replaced by and large by contract work.

    -9.63, 0.00
    "Liberty" is deaf, dumb, and useless without life itself.

    by nobody at all on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 08:54:29 AM PST

    •  it's too late to rec this comment but i would (0+ / 0-)

      if i could.

      i too am self employed and work as a contractor in medical imaging.  twice i've worked with people who were good, nice people, but who dipped into the money to pay their personal bills.  once it took years to get my money---thousands of dollars---back.  he did eventually pay every cent with interest.  his then-spouse had absconded with the money.  in a second situation i ended up writing off a few hundred dollars---again the result of a divorce in the family-owned company that i contracted for.  since then i've quit working that way.  i only work when the contract is directly with me.  no more middle men.  

      i don't get as much work that way, but i do get paid on time and in full.

      you really are out there on your own to trust the integrity of the people you are working with.  in my instances, both were great contracts for years until their marriages fell apart and they were strapped for cash.  the temptation to get creative with their payments was too great and it was a mess.

      "Maintaining a robust public health infrastructure will be critical to managing the potential health impacts of climate change." NCADAC Draft Climate Assessment Report January 11, 2013

      by politik on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 05:57:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ahhh it's just life in a... (5+ / 0-)

    "Right to Work" state at its best...

    I've had some discussions on-line with some "Severely Teabagged Texans" in the construction trades...

    Unions, Osha, Prevailing Wages, is all just some evil socialist stuff....

    They'd rather shoot themselves in the foot and race to the bottom... It's all Obama's Fault!

    "Do you realize the responsibility I carry?
    I'm the only person standing between Richard Nixon and the White House."
    ~John F. Kennedy~

    -7.5,-5.8

    by Oldestsonofasailor on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 10:32:44 AM PST

  •  Work Doesn't Pay Anymore (3+ / 0-)

    We don't value hard work in the US anymore.

    We value the guy who flips a switch and sells 1000000 shares of Acme 3 seconds after he bought it and makes 100,000.

    We value the singer who lip synchs but wears flashy clothes.

    We value the guy who rips off his workers and then splits the savings with the stockholders.

    We value the drug addicted son of the business owner who gets to inherit the family business without paying estate tax even though he fucked off his whole life.

    But the guy picking fruit? Or a hauling shingles to the roof? Or working in a plant? Forget them.

    That to me is why the GOP is losing now.

    They complain about "takers" and gov't help for the working poor but they have NO strategy to help these people move up.

    The don't want to help them get an education.
    They don't want to help them with health care.
    They don't want to guarantee them any sick or annual leave.
    They DAMN SURE don't want them to form an effective union.

    So how do they help the working class? All they got is to tell you to be happy for what you got and accept it.

  •  NO ONE who works a full time job should be (0+ / 0-)

    (especially in a skilled trade like construction) below the poverty line. There I said it!

    Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

    by Dirtandiron on Tue Feb 05, 2013 at 05:04:07 PM PST

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