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Houston Chronicle Highlights "Race to the Bottom" in Construction Industry

The University of Texas study on the construction industry that we've been telling you about is getting attention across the state, from TV reports in Austin and Dallas to a column in the Houston Chronicle.  

In a piece called "Why construction fails as a good career choice," L.M. Sixel cited the UT study when she wrote: 

This "race to the bottom" is making it difficult for business owners that follow the rules to compete, according to the study, "Build a Better Texas: Construction Working Conditions in the Lone Star State." Researchers interviewed 1,194 construction workers as well as 15 industry leaders.

The stark findings - 22 percent of the workers reported they didn't get paid for work they did, 50 percent reported they receive no overtime pay even when they work 80 hours a week, 78 percent receive no health benefits - suggest why it is difficult to attract a skilled workforce.

The lack of benefits means the workers - predominantly young, male, foreign-born Latinos, according to the most recent Census Bureau data - have their health care subsidized by taxpayers.

Construction workers represent nearly 20 percent of the uncompensated work-related emergency room care, even though they make up 6 percent of the workforce, the study found.

Sixel also spoke with Stan Marek, President and CEO of the Marek Family of Companies

"No contractor that pays hourly wages, payroll taxes, overtime and provides workers' compensation can compete with this kind of system," said Stan Marek, CEO of Marek Brothers Systems.

Marek said he is passionate about the issue because he and other construction contractors are losing business to builders who have found a way around paying Social Security, Medicare, unemployment and other taxes as well as overtime and minimum wages.

"The only reason it's working for those who cheat is because so many workers are undocumented and they feel as if they have no other choice," Marek said.

Marek and others argue that until these problems are addressed, construction will struggle to attract young Texans and create a sustainable workforce for years to come. Your thoughts are welcome in the comments section below. 



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