Report: Texas construction jobs "most dangerous"

Report: Texas construction jobs
Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - 9:44pm

Some shocking statistics spells bad news for the construction industry across the lonestar state.

Texas is one of the largest and most important construction markets in the country, driving the construction industry at a time when most of the country is still reeling from the recession.

Between 1997 and 2010, population in the state increased by nearly 25%, twice the percentage growth the U.S. experienced during that same period, creating demand for housing, infrastructure, and industry needs in the state.

Construction accounts for one out of every $20 generated by the Texas economy and over 10% of all construction output in the U.S.

In 2011, Texas single-handedly accounted for 16% of all new housing starts in the US, more than both Florida and California combined. 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.

The prevalence of payroll fraud has devastating consequences on honest businesses who have found it increasingly difficult to compete with businesses who break the law. Furthermore, payroll fraud costs Texas taxpayers $54.5 million in lost unemployment insurance tax revenue and hundreds of millions more in federal income tax, straining already limited state and federal resources.

Build a Better Texas found that many construction workers face unsafe working conditions.  "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," stated state Senator José Rodriguez from El Paso. 

"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," stated Stan Marek, CEO of Marek Brothers Construction, a statewide dry wall contractor who has been in business for over 70 years.

According to Workers Defense Project's Executive Director, Cristina Tzintzun, this study highlights the fact that "Texas needs to be tougher on employers who break the rules, hurt workers and under cut good businesses."

In El Paso, the Labor Justice Committee has assisted construction workers and other workers who have experienced wage theft and other employment violations for 3 years. Build a Better Texas confirms the prevalence of these issues in El Paso and illustrates the need for stronger local enforcement against wage theft.  The Labor Justice Committee was a key research partner in the Build a Better Texas study. 

Furthermore, this study offers concrete solutions to ensure a safe, healthy, and productive workforce to better build an economically stable and prosperous Texas.

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