The following information was provided by Workers Defense Project (WDP), an Austin-based advocacy group for low-income workers.
This evening a vigil will be held for José Lainez, a construction worker who died while building bridges between Highway 183 and Highway 290 on June 15th 2012. His family claims the cause of death was heat exhaustion. The vigil will take place outside of El Shaddai church, located across from the construction site where José worked. José is survived by his five children, two of which live in Austin: Alex and José Jr. He was 54 years old.
José Lainez spent the last twelve years as a construction worker in Austin, sending most of his money home to his family in Honduras so that they could repair their home. According to his family, José was in very good health, but the heat, lack of rest breaks and lack of water at the job site led to his death. Workers Defense Project has filed numerous complaints against the company for repeated worker safety violations. Guadalupe Torres knew Don José and worked alongside him at the site where the accident occurred.
“All workers should take part in this vigil. Companies are not protecting our safety,” says Torres. “In this summer heat, we’re all at risk. We have to stop these accidents. Death on the job is a tragedy for families and is completely avoidable.”
Texas remains the deadliest state in the nation for construction workers. A joint study released by the University of Texas and Workers Defense Project found that a Texas construction worker dies on the job every 2.5 days, and nearly 16,900 accidents occur annually.
In July 2010, Austin City Council passed a law requiring companies in to Austin provide their workers with water and rest breaks. No such law exists yet at the state level. Since Don José was working on a state-owned construction site, the rest break ordinance did not cover him and his co-workers. Advocates will be calling upon the State Legislature to pass rules to ensure rest breaks for all construction workers in Texas.
With shifts lasting as long as 12 hours a day, construction workers across the state remain unprotected in the soaring summer temperatures. The vigil for José Lainez comes on the heels of complaints that rest breaks were not being given on the Formula 1 racetrack or Water Treatment Plant 4.
“Workers deserve safe workplaces so that they can go home to their families at the end of each day. As our city grows, we cannot forget the men and women who labor in the heat every day to build Austin,” says Gregorio Casar, Business Liaison at Workers Defense Project.
Photos courtesy Workers Defense Project