- A study has found that construction workers across the southern U.S. receive little to no employment benefits and have relatively low pay, according to the Houston Chronicle.
- The Workers Defense Project report found that 40% of construction workers in Houston had no health insurance, retirement savings, paid vacations or sick leave. More than 30% were not offered breaks during the day and reported that their employer did not provide drinking water on the job.
- Only 5% of the 1,435 workers interviewed in six Southern states said workers' compensation covered the cost of their work injuries, and 57% said they earned less than $15 an hour.
The results of this study reinforce a complicated issue plaguing the industry. On one hand, contractors across the country are facing the consequences of skilled-labor shortages and say they're pulling out all the stops — including raising pay — in an effort to recruit workers.
However, this report reveals that, at least in the South, many companies aren't making the necessary changes in compensation and workplace culture to be an attractive option for new workers.
There are some in the private construction industry that target labor as a place to cut costs in order to see a bigger profit or to win work as low bidders.
In an example of this strategy taken to the extreme, a recent report from the nonprofit group Polaris said that from 2007 to 2016, it received 550 reports of slave labor conditions in the U.S. construction industry. Polaris reported that small residential and commercial contractors are the most likely to perpetrate "slave labor" levels of exploitation.
This includes misclassifying employees as independent contractors so that employers don't have to pay them benefits or cover them with workers' compensation insurance.