Build a Better South: Construction Working Conditions in the U.S. South

On May 9th, the Workers Defense Project, Partnership for Working Families, and Dr. Nik Theodore of the University of Illinois Chicago for the release of Build a Better South: Construction Working Conditions in the U.S. South. This comprehensive study uncovers the precarious working conditions faced by many southern construction workers and calls for immediate action to protect workers. 

Full Report can be found here.


The Failed Promise of the Texas Miracle 

Over the last year, researchers from the Workers Defense Project and the University of Texas at Austin have undertaken a study of tax subsidies and other economic incentives utilized at the state and local level to spur economic development in Texas.

To understand the impact of these economic programs, our research team combed through thousands of pages of contracts and compliance records from three Texas cities and county governments: Austin & Travis County, Houston & Harris County, and Dallas & Dallas County.

Full Study here: The Failed Promise of the Texas Miracle (compressed file)


Austinites, famous for caring about their environment and their city, have created demand for a all kinds of sustainable products: from organic food grocers to ambitious zero-waste initiatives to the nation’s first green building program. Now, as poverty rates rise, and as construction site fatalities remain the highest in the country, would consumers use their power to demand buildings that protect both the environment as well as the Austin residents who build them? Since Austinites love fair trade coffee, will they love Premier Community Builder homes and hotels?

WDP teamed up with UT’s Center for Sustainable Development to answer this very question. And the results are in. Extensive market analysis shows that over 2 in 3 of Downtown respondents would strongly prefer– and would pay more– to live, work, and play in buildings where workers are paid a living wage, are safe, and have the training they need. Check out our brand new study and the rest of the results by reading Green Jobs for Downtown Austin: Exploring the Consumer Market for Sustainable Buildings.


WDP places a special focus on improving conditions in the construction industry given that 80% of its members work in construction. Additionally, WDP’s research shows that the majority of construction workers in Texas experience serious employment violations, resulting in high levels of poverty and high rates of death and injury on the job.

To address the systemic abuse in the construction industry, WDP has teamed up with the University of Texas to undertake one of the nation’s most comprehensive studies on the industry, entitled Build a Better Texas: Construction Working Conditions in the Lone Star StatePublished January 2013.

→ Click here to watch our Build a Better Texas videos!


WDP has also tackled immigration reform, publishing Build a Better Nation: A Case for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which demonstrates the need for national-level immigration policy reforms that protect workers in low-wage industries like construction. Published February 2013.

→ Click here to watch Build a Better Nation video!


See an expanded report on the social costs of construction injuries in our Construction Emergency: The Hidden Cost of Workplace Injuries report. Published April 2011.


Read our groundbreaking first study on the construction industry, Building Austin, Building Injustice: Working Conditions in Austin’s Construction Industry. Published June 2009.