Session Updates

Governor Perry Signs WDP’s Payroll Fraud bill!

i Jun 20th Comments Off by
Last Friday, Governor Perry signed House Bill 2015, which creates penalties for employers who misclassify their employees as independent contractors on state contracts. This hallmark legislation marks the first time Texas has ever enacted a law creating a penalty for misclassification of workers as independent contractors. Misclassification, also known as payroll fraud, occurs when employers illegally classify workers as independent contractors and fail to deduct payroll taxes. Payroll fraud strips workers of their basic protections under the law, shifts the tax burden to working families, and results in over $1 billion in lost state and federal taxes from the construction industry alone.  Check out this video to learn more about payroll fraud.
WDP collaborated with the Texas Workforce Commission and construction industry groups to pressure the legislature to take up and pass this important bill.  Our groundbreaking report Build a Better Texas: Construction Working Conditions in the Lone Star State made the case for legislation to crack down on payroll fraud. Click here for the report. The new law will take effect on January 1st, 2014 and will pave the way for our efforts to ensure that all Texas workers are treated fairly on the job.

Please watch these two important 5-minute videos about Workplace & Environmental Health and Safety!

i May 31st Comments Off by

“No quiero que haya otra historia como la mía.” (I don’t want there to be another story like mine,”) explains Adriana Martinez, whose 29 year old husband was killed in 2009 at a construction project in Houston, Texas.  Martinez shares her story in the 5-minute video, “My husband Orestes Martinez: Died at an unsafe workplace.”  The video, in English with Spanish subtitles, includes several written questions to encourage discussion at safety trainings, staff meetings or other events.  It’s available on YouTube at: http://youtu.be/1dpnqpG3vbo.

Another 5-minute video, “My son Dirk Remington: Died at an unsafe workplace,” features Dale Remington, whose 46 year-old son was killed while repairing a radio/cell tower in upstate New York.  Viewers who are parents may connect particularly with Remington who reminisces about his son as a rambunctious youngster to an adult who found a job he loved, despite the hazards of working at heights.  It’s on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJ3hVIvj_bo  and also includes Spanish subtitles and discussion questions.

A Bad Bill Goes Down!

i May 20th Comments Off by
HB 1548, which would have outlawed project labor agreements, has died in Senate committee! Congratulations to the building trades unions that turned out in large numbers to oppose this bill. We were proud to stand with you for this important tool for local government to improve working conditions. Mike Cunningham of the TX Building Trades, Rick Levy of the AFLCIO, and Michael Murphy, a member of the IBEW and local labor attorney, provided great testimony last week convincing senators not to pass the bill.

Misclassification Bill Passes both houses!

i May 20th Comments Off by
We have exciting news! Friday HB 2015 was passed by the Senate! HB 2015 creates a penalty for misclassifying workers on on government contracts. This is the first time that the misclassification of workers as independent contractors has carried a penalty under Texas law!  In the next few days, it should be on its way to the Governor. We can’t quite celebrate yet, since its up to him to sign it, but its looking good.
HB 2015 is limited to government contracts, unlike HB 1925 which we have worked on with construction industry leadres this session, but it is an important step in the right direction!

Wage Theft Victory in El Paso!

i Apr 29th Comments Off by

Last week there was an important victory for our partners in El Paso, the Labor Justice Committee of Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project. In 2011, WDP and the Build a Better Texas Campaign worked to pass the Texas Wage Theft Act, which creates criminal penalties for employers who refuse to pay their workers.  This act made it possible for El Paso to win their first arrest and indictment against an employer for criminal theft of service. In Austin, WDP has successfully used criminal theft of service against employers in the past, but the state law has allowed this effective policy to be implemented across the state.  Congratulations to the Labor Justice Committee for their hard work implementing this important protection for workers! A special thanks to Senator Jose Rodriguez and Representative Eddie Rodriguez for working diligently to pass this law last session!!

Check out their coverage in the news:
El Diario de El Paso
Fox 14
Diario de El Paso
Texas Observer
Keep up all the awesome work winning protections for Texas Workers! Adelante Adelante, La lucha es constante!

Penalties bills move out of BOTH committees!

i Apr 29th Comments Off by
HB1925 and SB 676 Both the House and Senate version of this bill that would create meaningful penalties for construction companies that misclassify their workers were passed out of their respective committees this week! On Monday, the Economic and Small Business Development Committee voted for HB 1925 7-0 with 2 members absent. The Senate bill (by Sen. Carona, R-Dallas) received a 7-0 favorable vote in the Senate Economic Development Committee on Thursday. We’ll see if this bill can move through both houses quickly, despite opposition from home builder groups (read article here).

Senate bill moves into House Committee!

i Apr 29th Comments Off by

SB340, one of our Build a Better Texas wage theft bills, was heard in the House Economic and Small Business Development Committee. SB340 would strengthen the bad faith penalty that the Texas Workforce Commission can impose on employers who fail to pay their workers. The bill has already passed through the Senate. The committee took a great interest in the bill, with Chairman John Davis (R-Houston) expressing support for efforts to crack down on wage theft. Rep. May Ann Perez (R-Houston) suggested that the maximum penalty should be raised from $1000 to $5000 for repeat offenders. Testifying in favor of the bill: Workers Defense Project, Guillermo Perez, WDP member and construction worker, Texas Civil Rights Project, Equal Justice Center. The Associated Builders and Contractors had threatened to oppose the bill but ended up withdrawing their opposition. The witness list hasn’t been posted yet so we’re not sure if any other groups dropped cards on the bill.We hope this bill will be voted out of committee quickly and move rapidly to the house floor.

Equal Pay Act pass out of House!

i Apr 29th Comments Off by

HB950 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, also know as the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, was passed by the Texas House and is headed to the Senate. The bill says the timeline (statute of limitations) for suing an employer for discrimination restarts each time a discriminatory paycheck is received. It brings Texas law into alignment with the federal law of the same name that was signed into law by President Obama.

Misclassification hearing

i Apr 22nd Comments Off by
HB 1925 (Rep. John Davis) received a favorable hearing in the House Economic Development Committee on 4/17. HB 1925 creates penalties for construction employers who misclassify their workers. A broad group of business associations (NFIB, TAB), construction associations (Associated General Contractors, Associate Builders and Contractors, Texas Construction Assoication), Unions (AFLCIO and Carpenters), Workers Defense Project testified in favor of the bill. Testifying against the bill was the a group called Leading Builders of America, who represented homebuilders like Perry Homes and David Weekly Homes. Read more about this hearing on Construction Citizen. Despite opposition from the homebuilder group, we are hopeful that the bill will be voted out of committee tomorrow. For national coverage of this issue, check out this great two-part NPR story on the Texas construction industry:
Part 1: Construction Booming in Texas, but Many Workers Pay Dearly
Part 2: Contractors Say Playing by the Rules Doesn’t Pay

Hearings in the Senate

i Apr 22nd Comments Off by
SB 1743 (Sen. José Gonzalez) received a hearing in the Sentate Economic Development Committee on 4/17. SB 1743 prohibits retaliation against a worker who reports wage theft. Thanks to everyone who testified in favor of the bill: WDP, Equal Justice Center, AFLCIO, City of El Paso, Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops. Registering against the bill: NFIB, Texas Association of Business, Associated Builders and Contractors, Texas Conservative Coalition. Senator Wendy Davis of Dallas aked some great questions during the hearing and expressed her support of this effort. We will know soon if there are enough votes to move the bill out of committee.