Session Updates

Wage theft bill moves out of committee!

i Apr 22nd Comments Off by
HB 1131 (Rep Mary Gonzalez) was voted out of House Committee on Economic Development!  HB 1131 sets up a registry of employers with criminal convictions for wage theft or administrative bad faith penalties. The version that was passed by the committee would list an employer on the database for 3 years. It also provides for an employer to have the right to dispute inclusion on the list if they believe there was an error. The bill received 7 favorable votes with 2 members absent. It will now go to the Calendars committee where we hope it will be set for the House floor quickly. 

Workers Comp hearings in the House

i Apr 22nd Comments Off by

HB 3310 and HB 3311 (both by Rep. Walle) were given hearings in the House Business and Industry Committee on 4/16. HB 3310 requires employers who choose not to provide workers’ compensation to provide life insurance benefits for their employees. WDP member Christian Hurtado provided moving testimony about his father’s death in the construction industry while working for a subcontractor who didn’t provide workers’ compensation. Christian’s family never received any compensation when his father died on the job. His testimony led to a serious discussion of this issue by committee members. The AFLCIO and WDP also provided testimony on this bill. HB3311 requires that employer who opt out of workers’ comp provide certain data to the Texas Workforce Commission about the health outcomes, medical costs, and benefits received by employees under their “non-subscriber” plans. This data would be critically important to policy makers to understand how Texas’ workers’ comp system is serving workers (remember- Texas is the only state that allows employers not to provide workers’ compensation). Both HB 3310 and 3311 were opposed by the following groups: Texas Alliance of Nonsubscribers, NFIB, Texas Association of Responsible Non-subscribers, Texas Conservative Coalition, Texas Association of Business, HEB Grocery, Texas Civil Justice League, Texas Association of Builders, Texas Risk Retention Association, Texas Retailers Association, Tyson Foods.

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Houston Workers’ Memorial Day Vigil

i Apr 19th Comments Off by

Join us in Houston to honor those who have lost their lives on the job on Saturday, April 27th at 10am at 1730 Jefferson, Houston, TX 77003. Workers Memorial Day is an international day of remembrance for workers who have died or have been injured on the job.WMD Flyer Houston 2013

WDP and Build a Better Texas in the News!

i Apr 17th Comments Off by
WDP and Build a Better Texas was in the news! There were several notable news stories that came out last week about our work.

Good News at the Capitol!

i Apr 17th Comments Off by
We stopped HB 1335! HB 1335 (by Rep. Sheets, Dallas) would have prohibited Texas cities from requiring that workers are paid a living wage on construction sites built with city incentive money. In a statement to the Austin American Statesman, Rep. Sheets said that he would not be moving the bill forward. Read the article here. Now we just have to watch out for amendments that could do something similar…
AND….
HB 494 (Rep. Ana Hernandez Luna) To extend the filing deadline for wage claims with the TWC was voted out of the House Economic and Small Business Development committee. There were 7 votes in favor and 2 members absent for the vote. We’ll know soon if it goes to the Calendars committee or onto the Local and Consent Agenda.

Misclassification

i Apr 17th Comments Off by
SB 676, by Senator Carona, which addresses worker misclassification, had a hearing before the Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee on April 3rd. Rick Levy of the AFLCIO, John Hinson from Marek Brothers Construction, and Emily Timm from WDP testified in favor of the misclassifcation bill. CC_BusinessLaborTogether_0Despite the favorable hearing where no one registered in opposition, the Quorum Report reported this week that there may be opposition from the Governor’s office for the misclassification bill. See the excerpt of that story here. The house companion, HB192 by Rep. John Davis had a hearing today in House Economic and Small Business Development Committee.

Mandatory Workers’ Compensation

i Apr 17th Comments Off by

photo_24/16/13 Article by the Texas AFLCIO, writer Ed Sills:

Texas is the only state that doesn’t require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance, which protects injured workers. At long last, it appears a consensus of lawmakers who understand the issue may be ready to address the situation, at least in part.

About one-third of employers choose to self-insure. Some of those employers are responsible and provide actual compensation when a worker is injured or dies in the workplace. Some provide little or nothing.

There is no real prospect of obtaining mandatory workers’ compensation insurance in the Texas Legislature in 2013, but today the House Business & Industry Committee heard two bills by Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, that would address the situation in different ways.

HB 3310 would require employers who choose not to carry workers’ comp insurance to buy life insurance policies of at least $200,000 on their employees. As recent reports have highlighted, fewer than 40 percent of those who die on the job in Texas receive workers’ compensation benefits. Texas had an official count of 433 job-related fatalities in 2011.

The star witness for the bill was Christian Hurtado, whose father died as the result of a fall in a workplace accident.

photo-1Hurtado, whose situation was cited not long ago by AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, testified that the subcontractor, who had no workers’ comp coverage, promised to help with the funeral, but ultimately the family struggled to pay even burial costs. He spoke haltingly about how, as a high school student, he had to step up and lead his family.

Texas AFL-CIO Legal Director Rick Levy said HB 3310 is aimed at employers who do nothing for injured workers, where “there is absolutely nothing there for them…It’s such a simple matter. It’s a matter of justice and fairness.”

Also testifying for the bill was Emily Timm of the Workers Defense Project, which advocates for immigrant workers and has backed legislation aimed at dangerous construction sites.

Margaret Greenshield, chair of the Texas Alliance of Non-Subscribers, testified against the bill. Greenshield said that while she “understands” situations like the one that hit the Hurtado family exist, she doubts employers could buy life insurance for part-time employees. Greenshield said she tried to do so on behalf of the jewelry company she works for and could not obtain it.

The bill was left pending.

The committee also heard HB 3311, which would require employers who don’t carry workers’ comp insurance to provide specific information on workplace injuries, cost of treatment and benefits provided. A substitute version of Rep. Walle’s bill by Rep. Mike Workman, R-Austin, conforms the data to information that non-subscribers already prepare so that additional information could be accessed more readily.

Levy said the bill would be a first step to understanding the depth of problems with employers who don’t carry workers’ compensation.

“In Texas we don’t have a clue what goes on out there,” Levy said, arguing it’s high time the state begins to balance the needs of employers against the needs of workers who are injured or killed.

Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, said he agrees lawmakers have a “duty” to do something about situations in which “the least among us” are left to fend for themselves when they are injured.

HB 331 was also left pending.

The committee could vote on the measures as soon as tomorrow.

Bills in the Senate!

i Apr 8th Comments Off by
SB 340 by Sen. Rodriguez,  enhancing penalties against Wage Theft, was voted out of the Senate!! It is now awaiting a hearing in the House Economic & Small Business Development Committee. Rep Mary Gonzalez, sponsor of the House companion (HB3625) has already requested a hearing.

SB 741 by Sen. Rodriguez extends the filing deadline with the Texas Workforce Commission. We are waiting on a vote in the Senate, but we are unsure that we will have enough votes due to opposition from the TAB and NFIB. Hopefully we will hear soon!

Wage theft registry to be voted out of committee!

i Apr 8th Comments Off by
HB 1131 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez creates a registry of employers who have criminal wage theft convictions. The bill was heard by the House Economic and Small Business Development committee on Wednesday at 8am. The committee substitute included employers who have been fined a bad faith penalty by the TWC. WDP member Valentin Hernandez gave testimony about his wage theft case by a repeat offender. Pro bono attorney Chris Kaiser also provided testimony in support of the bill. Only the NFIB registered in opposition to the bill, but did not testify. We are hopeful the bill will be voted out of committee next Thursday!

Misclassification’s positive hearing!

i Apr 8th Comments Off by
SB 676 by Senator Carona was heard by Senate Economic Development Committee on Wednesday at 8am. After months of meeting, we have reached consensus with the construction industry associations, business groups, and unions on a bill to create penalties for misclassification! No one registered in opposition to the bill, but now there are several homebuilder groups that may be trying to kill the bill behind closed doors. Keep your fingers crossed that it gets voted out of committee!