Honor those who have died on the job; support worker safety legislation

Supporters of worker safety legislation gathered Thursday at the Texas state capital to honor workers who have died or been injured on the job. The event, which was sponsored by the Workers Defense Project, an Austin-based worker center that helps low-income workers organize, was held to celebrate Workers’ Memorial Day.

“This day recognizes and remembers workers who lost their lives or were severely injured due to unsafe working conditions and also commemorates the 40th Anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration,” said Emily Timm of the Workers Defense Project.

Many of the Workers Defense Project’s members are immigrant construction workers, and WDP has focused much of its efforts recently on making construction work safer. “In 2009, a construction worker died every 2.5 days with 138 deaths reported in Texas,” Timm said. “In addition to workplace fatalities, construction workers frequently suffer workplace accidents. A construction worker in Texas has a one in five chance of being seriously injured on the job; with only 45 percent of Texas construction workers covered by workers’ compensation, these accidents have a devastating impact on Texan families and taxpayers.”

After rallying at the Capitol Rotunda and hearing music by the Gustavo Rodriguez Band, www.grbmusic.net, the group split up and began visiting lawmakers urging them to support workplace safety bills, including HB 3020 /SB 1765, which would require a 15-minute rest break for every four hours worked on all government construction sites,  SB 1389, which would require that each employee complete an Occupational and Safety and Health ten-hour safety training course prior to working on all government construction sites, and HB 1739/ SB 938, which would require construction employers to carry workers’ compensation coverage. 

“We must honor the men and women who build our state. No one should have to risk their life on the job,” said Sen. José Rodriguez, author of SB 1765.  “Their deaths should not be in vain – Texas needs to ensure that every construction worker goes home to their family at the end of the day.” 

“Construction work is dangerous but we believe Texas can do more to protect workers,” said construction worker Fernando Adame, who broke his arm in a work site fall in 2009. “Its our families who pay the price when we get hurt or killed on the job.”

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