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.