“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.
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!!
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.
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.