Let’s Appreciate All Workers Every Day

Labor Day is only one day to honor all workers who have kept Houston running and prosperous for 183 years. (Happy Birthday, Houston!)

I personally am grateful for the 20,000 employees of the City of Houston, who come to work every day to serve all of our residents. Whether it’s fixing potholes, protecting our neighborhoods, handing out books at our libraries or answering 9–1–1 or 3–1–1 calls, every city worker strives to do the best they can for all Houstonians.

We value and protect our city employees but some workers do not have these benefits. Some are injured and even die on the job. Sadly, Texas leads the country in workplace deaths; 534 were reported in 2017. Houston accounts for about 20 percent of that total, with 101 reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017.

That’s 101 too many!

With the federal funding coming to our city to help with the recovery from Hurricane Harvey, we recognized an opportunity to implement the Build Houston Better program, promoted by The Gulf Coast Building and Construction Trades Council, the Workers Defense Project, the Texas Organizing Project, the Houston Organizing Movement for Equity coalition and the Partnership for Working Families.

The City of Houston, which still has so much rebuilding to do after Hurricane Harvey, does not want to see another construction worker or any labor worker lose his or her life.

So in the week leading up to Workers Memorial Day April 28, I joined with labor leaders to announce that the City’s Housing and Community Development Department has adopted a Worker Protection and Workforce Development program that will apply to workers building multifamily units under HUD-funded CDBG-DR funds.

Under the projects covered by this program, contractors of any tier working on the project will be required to provide:

  • a minimum Hourly Base Wage rate of $15 or the federal prevailing wage in residential construction, whichever is higher
  • OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 safety training
  • workers’ compensation insurance

In addition:

  • at least ten percent of hours worked on the projects will be done by individuals in Department of Labor-registered apprenticeship or bilingual craft training programs, opening up career paths
  • at least ten percent of all project work hours will be done by low-income residents eligible for HUD Section 3 housing assistance
  • misclassification of workers as independent contractors to steal their wages or shift the burden of payroll taxes to them will be sharply limited

So on this Labor Day, think about all the workers who build the roads you drive on, pick up your garbage and take care of your neighborhood park. Give them a smile and a thank you. They deserve it.