Contact: Jose Eduardo Sanchez
HOUSTON COALITION CALLS ON CITY TO PASS WAGE THEFT ORDINANCE
IN LIGHT OF OVER $20 MILLION IN CITY CONTRACTS TO UNSCRUPULOUS COMPANY
“I’m coming forward not as a victim or even a survivor, but as a community member who knows the human impact of the disregard of workers’ human rights to fair wages and safe working environments. And I am making my voice heard, not to ask for help for myself, but because I don’t want this to happen to any other workers.” – Abraham Rodriguez
Houston, TX – Abraham Rodriguez and Luis Matute worked on city water main pipes that ruptured after last summer’s drought. The pipes are made of a combination of cement and asbestos, a fiber that when inhaled is a proven cancer-causing killer and requires utmost attention to protect workers’ health. Unfortunately, the City of Houston awarded one of the main contracts for this work out to Reytec Construction Resources, a company with a notoriously shameful safety and health record. This employer is on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s nation-wide list of “severe violators” of worker safety standards.
While repairing the broken water mains last summer, Reytec Construction Resources and its contractors did not follow OSHA standards relating to trenches and asbestos. Rodriguez and Matute, and likely workers on other Reytec jobs, were exposed to airborne asbestos and were working in unshored trenches at great risk of the dirt walls falling in and burying them alive. On top of all that, Rodriguez and Matute’s wages were illegally withheld for over two months. After much insisting and raising concerns about the hazards they faced, Reytec Construction paid them for their two weeks of work.
As a Coalition, we are shocked and angered to learn that our tax dollars and public money is awarded to a contractor with such an egregious labor record. Since April 2011, Reytec Construction Resources has received more than $22 million in payments from the City of Houston. As a Coalition, we are even more frustrated that the City has no system in place to ensure that contractors working in the City have upstanding labor rights records. This lack of accountability goes beyond city contracts, and on to the hundreds of labor violations that occur every week by Houston employers connected to the city of Houston through various permits and licenses.
The City must develop a system to check with the government agencies and courts that are charged with enforcing basic labor laws and ensure that employers seeking permits and licenses or submitting a bid do not have a record of violating labor laws. We strongly urge Mayor Parker and City Council members to pass an ordinance that includes these basic protections.
City Council Public Session: 9:30 AM, Wednesday, November 14th
City Hall – Council Chambers
WHO: Affected workers – Abraham Rodriguez and Luis Matute
Fe y Justicia Worker Center staff and members, and Down with Wage Theft Coalition
Dr. Celeste Monforton, Dept. of Environmental & Occupational Health, School of Public Health & Health Services, George Washington University
The Down with Wage Theft Campaign is driven by a coalition of Houston community, faith, & labor organizations, responsible businesses and individuals who believe in standing up for workers’ rights to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and making Houston a just and prosperous place to work. For more information, visit www.downwithwagetheft.org