Earlier this month, members of the Economic Stability and Jobs working group of the Equal Voice Network of the RGV held an important meeting with Proyecto Defensa Laboral (Workers Defense Project) to discuss collaboration between PDL and the new Valley workers center, Fuerza del Valle. Proyecto Defensa Laboral is building a campaign of construction workers across Texas for state policy changes that address the high rates of worker injury and death on the job. The Build a Better Texas Campaign will unite labor organizations, people of faith, community organizations and individuals who want just working conditions for the hard working men and women who build our communities.
Proyecto Defensa Laboral is a workers center in Austin that works closely with low wage and immigrant workers, both to address immediate needs—recovery of unpaid wages, injury compensation, workplace abuse—and to organize for long-term structural change. The center, which is at the forefront of the workers center movement, integrates political education and leadership development into their program, allowing the center to be run and directed by low wage and immigrant workers themselves.
PDL’s current policy focus is on the construction industry, since so many of the organization’s worker members who have suffered from workplace abuse are construction workers. PDL forged alliances with community organizations, unions, churches, and responsible businesses in the local area to better working conditions in Austin. The group they have formed is called the Build a Better Austin Coalition.
However, with the state legislative session coming up, the group hopes to expand the campaign’s reach by meeting with organizations and workers all over the state who are interested in collaborating with and strengthening the coalition. Through the Building a Better Texas Campaign, the coalition’s construction worker members want to address issues on the state level by passing legislation and affecting public policy related to the high rate of death on the job (over 140 per year in Texas, much greater than in any other state), lack of rest breaks and drinking water, wage theft, lack of workers compensation, and lack of safety training.
The Jobs working group, of which LUPE is a part, seeks the input of successful organizations like PDL to make sure Fuerza develops into a strong tool for protecting the rights of workers in the RGV.