Texas Construction Industry Booming, But at What Cost?

With jobs so few and far between in our country today, Texans can be extremely thankful for the ever growing construction industry in the Lone Star State. According to studies, the construction industry (both in residential and commercial areas) in our state alone is valued at about $54 billion annually, and employs 1 in 13 workers in the state. However, there is a large concern that affects the safety of the industry itself; out of nearly the 1 million employed workers in Texas, about half of them are undocumented immigrants. As a result of this trend, employers have lowered the wages in the industry, which has resulted in a significant increase in accidents over the years as the industry has become ramped with hazards throughout.

With cheap labor though, comes cheap product. As a result, people who are from California for example who would have to spend over half a million at least for a 3 bedroom, one floor home, can move to Texas and for half the price buy an even larger home and property space. The question remains though, how cheap is the cheap labor in our state? Believe it or not, there are many workers who are actually working for free as a result of wage fraud from the employers. Many of these immigrants have been working in this industry here for a dozen or more years and there are times when their employers owe them significant amounts of money and it isn't until the workers threaten to report the company the Texas Workforce Commission that the employers pay up. The reason that many Texas employers are able to give unfair wages is because the undocumented immigrants are usually too scared to speak up for fear of losing their work and being sent home.

The Workers Defense Project, an Austin based labor group, has been working on seeking reform in the construction industry for many of these unfairly treated workers, undocumented or not. Their report, co-authored with the University of Texas, Austin, states that many of the construction workers are being severely underpaid; and yet the companies will do whatever they can to essentially trick the workers to coming back. Cristian Tzintzun with the Defense Project calls this "wage theft" which essentially means that the workers are being cheated out of what they are due for their labor, and she calls it "the nasty cousin of slavery." While slavery may sound like a drastic term, what these workers are experiencing is close to it; as many have been sent home at the end of the day without receiving a penny for their hours of labor.

Apart from the devastating effects of undocumented laborers in the Texas construction industry, there is another tragic act that is plaguing the people. Many construction companies are known for misclassifying their workers so that they are off the hook in the event of an accident or injury from having to cover workers' compensation benefits. Employers will misclassify the workers as "independent contractors" as opposed to true employees, therefore depriving them of the wages and benefits they are due. According to the Defense Projects research, they discovered that over 40% of the workers in the industry here are wrongfully classified as subcontractors, regardless of their immigrations standing.

With the industry being ramped in lies and deceit, not only are the workers suffering with lack of wages (or none at all), but they are also risking their lives more than any other state in the construction industry. According to the 2010 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in the state of Texas, there were an estimated 10.7 deaths for every 100,000 workers. Remember, that in Texas there are an estimated 1 million construction employees total. This death toll is nearly twice as high as it is in the state of California with only 5.2 deaths per 100,000 workers, and the U.S. total rate in the year of 2010 there was 8.8 total.

Sadly, out of every 5 construction workers in the Texas industry, there will be at least 1 hospitalization for injuries. Not only does our state hold the highest number of injuries, but Texas is also the only state that does not legally require companies to offer workers compensation. Because of this, when there is an injury on the job the workers themselves are often the ones left paying for the treatment, which can quickly add up. While not every construction company falls under these devastating categories, a large majority do. In the event that you are a construction worker who has been injured on the job, or you are a family member who lost loved one in an accident, contact Arnold & Itkin LLP for the skilled Houston personal injury lawyer you need. We will do whatever we can to help you and your family fight of the compensation you deserve for the accident and subsequent injuries.

Construction injuries can often be very severe and life altering; in some cases they can prevent the worker from ever being able to return to their job again in the future. Not only will the family have to suffer from the many medical expenses (initially and for future treatments), but they will likely have to suffer with loss of wages and future earning capacity. All hope is not lost though, by hiring our firm you will not be disappointed. At Arnold & Itkin, we are a highly qualified legal team and in just the last 3 years have recover $500,000 million in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our clients. Call us immediately to begin discussing your claim.


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