Hundreds marched through downtown Austin in Febuary to honor the men and women who have died in the Texas construction industry. The event was organized by Workers Defense Project and drew statewide support.
“It is heartbreaking that Texas remains the deadliest state in the country to work in construction. Workers Defense will keep organizing, marching, and taking action until our elected officials stand with the working families they represent,” said Cristina Tzintzún, Executive Director of Workers Defense Project.
“We are here today because the hands that build Texas in this deadly industry also feed families. It doesn’t have to be this way -- the Texas construction industry can be safe. But our elected officials must take action,” said Tzintzún.
Sen. Jose Rodriguez and Rep. Armando Walle also spoke at the event.
Politicians in the state often tout the “Texas miracle” economy, but for so many working families, that miracle is a nightmare. According to a 2013 University of Texas, Austin report, more workers die in the Texas construction industry than in any other state. Between 2007 and 2011, 585 workers died in Texas, compared to 299 in California, which had a larger construction workforce.
One in five construction workers in Texas have been seriously injured on the job.
These conditions hurt Texas workers and their families, but they also harm responsible businesses that invest in their workforce. When bad businesses cut corners, good businesses can’t compete.
Texas laws fall short of guaranteeing basic protections like rest breaks, safety training or overtime pay. Texas is the only state in the country that doesn’t require employers to provide workers’ compensation or an equivalent. Without these standards, responsible businesses are at a competitive disadvantage.
Many of the families at Wednesday’s march know the dangers of the industry first hand. Christian Hurtado, whose father died in a construction accident several years ago, describes the accident: “My father was working a roof, without fall safety equipment, without other helpers. He fell 15 feet onto concrete. He should have never been put at such risk. When he died, we were lost without him, with no help to pay for his funeral, to support our family. I had to leave school to work full-time to support my mother and my sister. I don’t want any other family to have to suffer like mine has.”
Earlier in the day, construction workers and allies flooded the State Capitol Building to speak with members of the legislature. Workers spoke about bills ensuring workers are treated with dignity and respect. Mandatory workers compensation, guaranteed rest breaks, and protections against wage theft were among the topics proposed bills will address.