To date, WDP has achieved the following through organizing, direct services, developing grassroots leaders, and advocacy.

Education, training, and wage claim victories:

  • Trained 14,800 low-wage workers’ about their employment rights and how to best defend them.  
  • Educated 113 contractors about their rights and responsibilities and provided technical assistance to build successful businesses.
  • Recovered $1,143,000 in back wages for over 1,100 low-wage workers through legal and direct action.
  • Graduated over 200 immigrant workers from WDP’s leadership development course that places a focus on building an analysis of the root causes of social inequality.
  • Involved over 100 youth in WDP’s mission through the organization’s enrichment childcare program that gives youth the opportunity to speak out about social issues that affect their lives and express themselves through art, music, and other enrichment activities.
  • Graduated 232 immigrant workers from English as Second language courses helping them develop their skills to find better employment opportunities.
  • Engaged 175 volunteers in more than 11,000 hours of volunteer work (2013 only)

Better Builder victories:

  • Signed six landmark agreements with Austin developers. The agreements combine expanded safety protections, hiring requirements, living wages and monitoring of construction sites to improve working conditions.
  • Monitored three construction sites, ensuring fair working conditions for 2,650 workers. During the projects WDP monitored:
    • 1,065 workers increased their wages by an average of $2.21 per hour.
    • 1,255 workers were covered by workers’ compensation policies when they otherwise wouldn’t have been.
    • 1,078 workers received an OSHA 10-hour safety training for the first time.
    • 28 workers received overtime pay that otherwise wouldn’t have.
    • 35 potentially dangerous serious safety violations were corrected by WDP monitors.
  • Created 5,000 good construction jobs that pay living wages, include expanded safety protections, and provide job training to help workers advance in the workplace.

Policy victories:

  • Passed Texas’ first misclassification protection law that imposes fines on employers caught misclassifying employees on state contracts – protecting not just construction workers, but any worker employed by a state contractor.
  • Won one of the nation’s most progressive economic development policies. To be eligible for tax incentives from the City of Austin and Travis County, companies must now agree to ensure higher standards on construction projects including: Living and prevailing wages, OSHA basic safety training, workers’ compensation coverage, protection from misclassification for all workers on the project, and project owners are incentivized to hire from “disadvantaged” worker populations (those that are low-income, have a criminal record, and do not have a high school diploma).
  • Won changes in city contracts to require basic safety trainings for all construction workers on city-funded sites.
  • Passed a statewide wage theft law. This bill makes it easier for police departments across Texas to arrest employers who don’t pay their workers, and closes an important loophole that allowed employers to avoid criminal theft of services charges by making a minimal payment to their workers. With the passage of this bill, thousands more workers are now able to recover their well-deserved wages.
  • Won paid rest breaks for Austin’s 60,000 construction workers by holding a “thirst strike” with WDP construction worker members and leaders outside of City Hall during the summer. The action drew attention of the local media, and health experts, which pressured City Council to pass a paid rest breaks ordinance for all construction workers in the city- the first of its kind in Texas.
  • Won a federal investigation into Texas’ deadly construction industry by OSHA, after WDP released a study about working conditions in the industry in our state. The study found that every 2.5 days a construction worker dies in Texas. Under the initiative, OSHA conducted nearly 900 inspections throughout the state, resulting in close to 1,500 citations and fines totaling almost $2 million. Overall the investigation resulted in a 60% increase in construction safety inspections throughout the state, saving countless lives.
  • Won a 500% increase in tax fraud investigations of the construction industry by the Texas workforce commission through advocacy and media pressure.
  • Won stronger OSHA enforcement standards.  Since 1981, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offices in Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma have not cited general contractors that allow safety violations on their worksites. Due to WDP’s advocacy efforts at the national level, OSHA has rescinded the policy and informed all OSHA inspectors that they must now cite general contractors when they fail to prevent and detect violations at their worksites. This change in policy will better protect thousands of workers in five states, and create a strong incentive for general contractors to ensure safe working conditions for workers on their construction sites.
  • Won Creation of Nationwide Safety Program:  In response to the Workers Defense Project’s campaign to rectify unsafe working conditions on construction sites in Texas, OSHA recently launched a pilot program in 11 different cities, including Austin. Through this program, OSHA will partner with the City of Austin to train city building inspectors on identifying workplace safety violations at construction sites around the city. After violation is found, city inspectors will then notify OSHA to send an investigator out to inspect the site and call for a work stoppage if necessary. This unique program will increase local oversight of construction work sites and reduce the number of injuries and fatalities that are currently endemic in the Austin construction industry.

 Immigration victories:

  • Co-founded the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, which mobilized 30,000 Austinites for just immigration reform in 2006—the largest march in the city’s history.
  • Coordinated “A Day without an Immigrant” along with the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, closing down an estimated 80% of restaurants and construction sites in the city to demonstrate the significant role immigrants play in the U.S. economy.
  • Reduced Austin immigrant deportations by 60 percent through the formation of a broad-based coalition, compelling the Austin Police Department to issue citations for misdemeanor offenses instead of arresting offenders, which could have led to deportation.
  • Defeated Anti-Day Labor Bill HB 904 at the state level that sought to prohibit government agencies from constructing or operating day labor centers that service undocumented immigrants. WDP spearheaded a campaign against this bill by forming a coalition with the ACLU of Texas, Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) and the Texas AFL-CIO to defeat this bill;
  • Defeated an Anti-Day Labor Ordinance that was proposed by City Council that sought to make public solicitation—including seeking work—illegal, and would have adversely affected hundreds of day laborers. WDP formed a broad coalition and defeated the bill, and won the passage of a pro-day-labor resolution by City Council, reaffirming their commitment to provide better services at day laborer centers and creating a Day Labor Advisory Committee with a seat designated for a day laborers
  • Published a report in February 2013 titled Build a Better Nation: A Case for Comprehensive Immigration Reform that showed that although undocumented workers were vital to the Texas construction industry, they were more likely to face workplace abuses.

2012 Greenlights Nonprofit Achievement Awards

Check out this great video put out by Austin’s Greenlights for Nonprofit Success highlighting the organizations that won awards for Collaboration, Impact, Innovation and Learning, Board Excellence, and Nonprofit Leader of the Year. WDP received the Impact award in 2012 thanks to the hard work of our members, staff, and volunteers (WDP’s part starts around 2:15).

Other Awards:

  • Engineering News-Record (2014): Award of Excellence
  • Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (2014): Nonprofit Award
  • University of Texas Austin (2013): Community Partnership Award
  • Interfaith Worker Justice (2013): Rising Star Award
  • Las Comadres Para Las Americas (2012): Crown Jewels- Latinas Who Shine
  • ACLUTX (2009): Civil Libertarian of the Year


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