In Texas, a construction worker dies every two and a half days. In the Texas Observer, Melissa Del Bosque explains that it’s because of “lax enforcement of labor and safety regulations, too many overtime hours without rest breaks and a lack of safety training and equipment.” The Austin-based nonprofit Workers Defense Project, which helps construction workers seek restitution for injuries, spent three months visiting construction sites to interview workers about these issues. Del Bosque summarizes their findings:
Researchers found that Austin construction workers—whether they’re legal immigrants, undocumented workers or seventh-generation Anglos—have plenty in common: Most work long hours without overtime. Few receive adequate safety training. And few get basic safety equipment when they’re hired for a job.
“Texas has failed to guarantee even basic safety and labor protections,” [Workers Defense Project’s Cristina] Tzintzún says.
At least 45 percent of the workers surveyed earned poverty-level wages. One in five had been injured on the job. Sixty-four percent said they had not gotten basic safety or health training. Many reported that they’d had to bring their own hard hats and safety belts to both government-funded and private-job sites.
In other news:
Washington Post: Virginia trucker Arthur Pierce fell into a coma while on the job (evidently from a fall), but his wife wasn’t able to collect workers’ compensation benefits – although she probably would have received benefits if he’d died immediately, rather than dying after 16 months in a coma. Now, Claire Pierce is working to change the Virginia’s workers’ compensation law.
Associated Press: Moderate-income, non-disabled veterans had been denied enrollment into the Veterans Administration healthcare system; now, the VA is expanding eligibility to an estimated 266,000 veterans who meet that description.
Washington Post: Obama has signed a presidential memorandum extending some benefits to the same-sex partners of federal workers – although extending health benefits to those partners will require the passage of legislation that’s currently before Congress.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: Canada is spending millions to remove asbestos from government buildings – but, unlike other developed countries, it still exports asbestos to India (40 million tons last year), where many workers are exposed to asbestos without safeguards or trainings.
New York Times: Italy has one of the worst job-safety records in Europe, but recent deadly workplace disasters have spurred an effort to toughen sanctions for companies that fail to address workplace hazards.