WDP, Labor Department Form Partnership for Workers
New alliance aims to improve working conditions in Texas
On July 15, the Workers Defense Project and the U.S. Department of Labor announced a "strategic alliance" intended to reinforce efforts to improve conditions for Texas workers, particularly in the construction industry. According to press releases issued by the WDP and the DOL (Wage and Hour Division and Occupational Safety & Health Administration), the primary purpose of the collaboration is to address issues like the recovery of unpaid wages and enforcing work-site safety regulations covered by federal law. "Through this alliance we will leverage our efforts to reach more workers and systematically impact the construction industry," said WDP Director Cristina Tzintzún. "The goal is to make work in Texas safe and humane for the hardworking men and women who build our state." WDP reports that the organization annually assists 2,500 workers in workplace injury or wage disputes, and that 85% of those cases arise in the construction industry. WDP hopes that the alliance with the DOL will help identify companies needing investigation and train workers about employment rights and their potential recourse with the DOL and OSHA.
Also involved in the alliance will be Construction Safety and Health Inc., an Austin-based nonprofit that performs safety and federal law compliance reviews for industry. "OSHA welcomes the opportunity to join the Workers Defense Project and Construction Safety and Health in emphasizing awareness of hazardous working conditions in the construction industry," said William Burke, OSHA's acting regional administrator in Dallas, in a press statement. "All partners of this alliance will work diligently toward achieving a safe and healthy workplace as well as provide information on the hazards commonly encountered in the construction industry."
Tzintzún said the Obama administration has shown more willingness than its predecessor in reaching out to community organizations and that the DOL specifically became interested in WDP's work after the publication of its report on conditions in the Texas construction industry, "Building Austin, Building Injustice." "Working directly with the DOL," she said, "will allow us to amplify our support for workers in three ways: first, by providing information on how workers can file complaints about workplace conditions; second, by creating another way DOL and OSHA can receive cases; and third, by helping establish lists of those employers that should be targeted for DOL investigation."