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Report: Deadly Working Conditions, Widespread Legal Violations in Texas Construction Industry
The deadliest state in the country for construction workers: that's the verdict from a year-long study between the University of Texas and the Workers Defense Project, finding what it calls "deadly working conditions" and "widespread legal violations."
After losing his finger after a construction accident three years ago, unemployed Austinite Luis Rodriguez says providing for his family is a constant concern.
"My fear is that I won't be hired now because of the situation with my body," said Rodriguez, translated from Spanish.
"These are life or death situations for workers," said Emily Timm, policy analyst for the Workers Defense Project.
Among the report's findings: one in five workers seriously hurt on the job, 60 percent with no safety training, which, along with the fact that around 70 percent of workers receive no benefits, the report says also hurts taxpayers.
"If they're hurt, they wind up in the ER, and we as taxpayers have to pay for it," said Stan Marek, Chairman and CEO of Marek Family of Companies, which performs residential and commercial interior construction.
Taxpayers are also hurt when 41 percent of workers are misclassified as independent subcontractors, cheating the state out of more than $54 million in tax revenue and much more in federal taxes, according to the report.
"Obviously we need an immigration bill at the national level, but that may not happen," said Marek. "So the State of Texas needs to get aggressive."
Several bills have been filed at the Capitol to tackle these issues. Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) filed a bill that aims to protect workers from retaliation after filing wage claims.
"We're gonna do this through the courts," said Rep. Rodriguez, when asked how the state would enforce the measure. "The courts are gonna determine on a case to case basis whether it's retaliation."
All laws Luis Rodriguez says he'll keep fighting for, saying it's a beautiful thing to leave your house and return well to your family.
The City of Austin is already proactive in dealing with this issue, requiring rest breaks and ten hours of safety training for workers.
By Adam Bennett