Meet the Veterans Who Rebuilt the World Trade Center

On the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, here’s a little “Throwback Thursday” recognition of the veterans who rebuilt the World Trade Center and became highly skilled members of the union building and construction trades through the Helmets to Hardhats apprenticeship program.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Immigrant, Latino Construction Workers at Bigger Risk of Death from Falls

A disproportionate number of Latinos and immigrants are disproportionately killed in fall accidents in New York, according to a new study by the Center for Popular Democracy, because they work in construction in relatively high numbers; are concentrated in smaller, nonunion firms; and are over-represented in the contingent labor pool.

According to Fatal Inequality: Workplace Safety Eludes Construction Workers of Color in New York State:

  • In the state of New York, Latinos and immigrants suffered 60% of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-investigated fatal falls from elevation fatalities.
  • In New York City, 74% of victims of fatal falls were Latinos and immigrants.
  • 86% of Latinos and immigrants killed in falls from an elevation in the state were working for nonunion employers.

Latino construction workers said they feared retaliation from their employers if they raised concerns about safety conditions. The report also points to an underfunded and understaffed OSHA and penalties for safety violations that are “so small that employers can see them as just an incidental cost of doing business.”

The report warns that matters could get worse because the construction and insurance industries are proposing an amendment to weaken the state’s Scaffold Law, which requires owners and contractors to provide appropriate and necessary equipment, such as safe hoists, ladders and scaffolds. The law holds owners and contractors fully liable if their failure to follow the law causes a worker to be injured or killed. It would shift responsibility for workplace safety from owners and contractors, who control site safety, to workers, who do not.

You can read an executive summary of the report here or download the entire report here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Up Late with Alec Baldwin and the Workers Defense Project

MSNBC’s new Friday late night show “Up Late with Alec Baldwin” recently featured an in-depth interview with Cristina Tzintzún, executive director of the Workers Defense Project (WDP). She explained the hardships and abuses immigrant workers face, especially undocumented construction workers in Texas, and some of the successes—such as the recent wage and job safety protections approved last month by the Austin City Council—WDP has seen.

Baldwin told viewers that while the battle over comprehensive immigration reform with a road map to citizenship “plays out in Washington, out in the rest of the country, out of the spotlight,” immigrant workers are “fighting real battles to feed their families.”

Why? Because without the protection of citizenship, they’re vulnerable to exploitation like wage theft—people hiring them to do work and then not paying them—unsafe and deadly work conditions like denying water breaks to people working outside in the summer heat. The Workers Defense Project in Texas is leading the fight to change this.

Watch part one of the interview above and part two below.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Austin Passes Some Pretty Cool Laws for Construction Workers

Several hundred construction workers in Austin, Texas—mostly immigrants—and their supporters from faith, union and community groups saw their months-long fight for respect and fair wages come to a successful conclusion when the Austin City Council last week passed an ordinance requiring employers on construction projects that receive city economic incentives pay prevailing wages, provide safety training and other worker protections.

In a statement following the 6–1 City Council vote, the Workers Defense Project (WDP) thanked the lawmakers and their allies—including Austin Interfaith and the Texas State Building and Construction Trades Council—for their support and said:

In the end, the construction workers of this city got this ambitious bill started, and they got it across the finish line. We still have lots more work to do, but last night was proof that we can achieve great things for our city together.

For more than a decade, the WDP has been battling against wage theft, spotlighting the dangers and winning reforms of the Texas construction industry and standing up for workplace justice and immigrants’ rights.

Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller said:

The Austin City Council’s decision to ask companies that receive tax breaks to give something back in the form of higher construction wages came about in large part because a broad coalition, including labor unions, stood united. Many companies that come to Austin will offer workplace benefits that help the entire community. Others can decline to meet the ‘living wage’ standard, but the council’s action makes it less likely they will be rewarded with subsidies just for showing up. The ordinance is a carrot, not a stick, and it will benefit workers.

WDP Political Director Greg Casar told the Texas Observer that the Austin ordinance “should be a model for the rest of our state to follow.”

Texas by far gives more tax incentives [than other states] in the country, while the working people who build Texas aren’t allowed to make enough money to make ends meet and aren’t allowed a safe worksite….The city took a critical and historic step last night to make sure that our tax dollars are really benefiting all of Austin and all the people who are paying taxes rather than just the corporations receiving the tax breaks.

Read more about Austin’s new law here and more about the WDP from The New York Times here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Workers Defense Project Is Making a Huge Difference in the Lives of Texas Construction Workers

Immigrant construction workers in Austin, Texas, have a fierce advocate fighting for back pay, safety on the job and basic workplace rights.

The Workers Defense Project, profiled by Steven Greenhouse in this weekend’s New York Times Business section, is an example of a worker center that is highly successful in its campaigns.

Greenhouse writes:

As worker centers go, the Workers Defense Project in Austin has racked up an unusual number of successes. It has won more than $1 million in back pay over the last decade on behalf of workers alleging violations of minimum wage and overtime laws. A report it wrote on safety problems spurred the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate 900 construction sites in Texas—leading to nearly $2 million in fines.

Read the rest of The Workers Defense Project, a Union in Spirit.

Photo by Workers Defense Project on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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