Building Our Country

Construction is difficult and important work. Workers who handle heavy machinery, heavy loads, and heavy responsibilities day in and day out built our country.

Workers built infrastructure and structures, from marvels like the Hoover Dam and the interstate highways to the local water systems and the homes we live in. Yes, they built it.

Hundreds of those workers rallied at the state Capitol Wednesday for Day of the Fallen to raise awareness of these issues because we know that’s not always the case. A recent study by the University of Texas found that more workers die in Texas than any other state in the nation, making Texas the deadliest place to work in construction.

Additionally, one of every five workers is injured on the job, while only 40 percent of the workforce is covered by workers’ compensation coverage.

Put simply, workers deserve the safest working conditions possible.

But it’s not only safety. It’s also security — making sure workers get paid, first of all, and that they get fair pay for fair work.

Construction workers face frequent legal abuses such as wage theft and payroll fraud.

More than one in five (22 percent) of Texas construction workers report not being paid for their work; though the majority of workers work at least 40 hours a week, nearly half still live in poverty (52 percent); Payroll fraud or misclassification of workers as independent subcontractors has become a common practice in the industry, with 41 percent of workers reporting they were misclassified. Significantly, when these workers can no longer work, they will likely receive less in Social Security retirement benefits because of this practice.

This kind of thing also hurts honest business, which must compete on a playing field that we need to roll up our sleeves and level.

Texas workers deserve better

It’s for these reasons I’ve proposed the following legislation:

* SB 740, Relating to required workers’ compensation insurance coverage for building and construction contractors.

* SB 341, Relating to rest breaks for employees of certain contractors with a governmental entity; providing an administrative penalty.

* SB 741, Relating to the period during which an employee may file a claim for unpaid wages with the Texas Workforce Commission.

* SB 340, Relating to administrative penalties assessed by the Texas Workforce Commission against certain employers for failure to pay wages.

I believe both workers and their employers — and all our families — deserve clear and fair rules as we pursue the great work of building our country together.



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