Build a Better Texas Coalition
5604 Manor Road, Austin, TX 78723 • www.buildtexas.org • 512-391-2305
September 9, 2010
Honorable Members of the Texas Legislature,
We are writing to express our concerns as businesses, community organizations, faith-based groups, and individuals over the illegal practices in the Texas construction industry that undermine the ability of responsible businesses to compete, allow dangerous working conditions to flourish, and force taxpayers to pick up the costs when unscrupulous employers break the law. The repercussions of these practices are broad and were highlighted in a recent study by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin:
- High rates of unsafe working conditions. A construction worker dies in Texas every 2.5 days, making Texas the most deadly state to work in construction. One in every five construction workers suffers an injury that requires medical attention, in part because sixty-four percent of surveyed workers lacked basic health and safety training, forty-one percent received no rest breaks, twenty-seven percent were not provided water by their employer, and many were forced to provide their own safety equipment.1
- Violations of state and federal law. Taxpayers are forced to pick up the costs when unscrupulous employers refuse to pay their employees, putting reputable employers at a disadvantage, and forcing working families to increasingly rely on public safety nets.
- High costs of Workplace injuries. Public hospitals must pick up the bill when construction workers are injured on the job and their employers fail to provide workers compensation. Despite high rates of injury on the job, only 45% of construction workers have workers compensation.2
- Lost income to the State of Texas. The Texas Workforce Commission’s 2008 audit of selected companies found that the construction industry was responsible for more lost tax dollars than any other industry in Texas.3
We believe that the Texas legislature can take action to level the playing field for reputable construction companies. With construction ranking among the top 10 employers in the state, the Texas legislature has a vested interest in ensuring the vitality and health of this industry to help create necessary jobs and have a positive impact on the state economy.4 We urge you to work with us to ensure the long-term growth and prosperity of the construction industry by:
- Guaranteeing safe working conditions and rewarding responsible businesses that invest in safety
- Ensuring that employers and workers are protected through workers’ compensation coverage
- Holding accountable employers who break the law and undercut good construction companies by evading paying taxes.
Thank you for taking the time to consider this important issue. We eagerly await your response in addressing these issues.
Build a Better Texas Coalition
1 University of Texas, Austin and Workers Defense Project. Building Austin, Building Injustice: Working Conditions in Austin’s Construction Industry. June 2009.
3 Texas Workforce Commission, 2008 Misclassified Worker Audit.
4 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economy at a Glance: Texas. http://www.bls.gov/eag/eag.tx.htm. accessed 5/25/10.