RELEASE: Build a Better South Report Highlights Challenges in Construction Industry

May 9, 2017 -- Jamie Way


Study: Construction Jobs Lack Basic Provisions in $175 Billion Industry

Build a Better South report highlights issues plaguing the construction industry in the South, including wage theft, low wages and safety concerns

As cities in the south continue to boom, workers earn poverty level wages and face dangerous working conditions

NATIONAL - University of Illinois at Chicago professor Nik Theodore, Workers Defense Project and Partnership for Working Families held a press conference today to unveil the findings of the Build a Better South study which examines working conditions in construction in six cities in the southern U.S.

Labor violations, including wage theft, are still common in the industry. According to the study, which is the first comprehensive report on construction conditions in the South, wage theft in the six cities studied alone costs construction employees $29.8 million annually.

“While the construction industry is booming in the South, construction workers are barely scraping by,” said Nikki Fortunato Bas, Executive Director of Partnership for Working Families. “The people building luxury condos in our cities often struggle to pay medical bills with no insurance, to cover living expenses with low pay and sometimes to even get paid for their work. If we’re going to invest in construction jobs to build our communities, we must ensure that these are good jobs.”

“As the construction industry continues to grow in the South, now is the time for policy makers and industry leaders to ensure that all construction jobs are good, safe jobs for working families,” said Jose P. Garza, Executive Director of the Workers Defense Project. “The success of a $175 billion industry is due to the men and women who labor in construction every day. These families deserve to reap the benefits of our city’s growth.”

The study found that four out of five workers have construction jobs that lacking one of the three most basic provisions of a good safe job. The three provision include: $15 an hour, safety training, and medical insurance or workers compensation. The implications for workers are significant - economic hardship, little or no opportunities for career advancement, unstable work and risk injury or even death on the job.

The study also found that four of the five southern states included in this study had construction fatality rates above the national rate. In the five southern states, 274 construction workers were killed on the job in 2015, which means nearly one in three construction workers killed on the job in the U.S were working in the south.

Through responses from more than 1,400 construction workers in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Miami and Nashville, researchers with the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Workers Defense Project and Partnership for Working Families found that construction workers often struggle with unsafe work conditions, low wages, precarious work, wage theft and lack of access to benefits and workers’ compensation.

The full findings of the report can be found here.