The University of Houston is spending $124 million to build a brand-new 1,200-bed dormitory to replace the aging Quadrangle. It’s a symbol of UH’s increasing popularity and growing prestige among Texas universities. There’s just one problem — UH isn’t making sure the general contractor or subcontractors on site are paying the workers who are building it the prevailing wages required by Texas Prevailing Wage Statute Section 2258.
Both Federal and Texas state law mandate that publicly-funded projects pay workers the prevailing wage, similar to a minimum wage, specific to the work they are performing and the local area.
Eight workers building the Quadrangle Housing Replacement to lay drywall for the project have filed a prevailing wage complaint, claiming they are being paid as general laborers, not drywall installers. This type of wage theft is called miscategorization, and it’s a common way for companies like Austin Commercial, the general contractor, to pad their bottom line by paying workers less for what should be higher-paid work.
While more workers have come forward than the eight workers who filed the complaint, even that small number of workers is owed over $43,000 in stolen wages — that’s more than $5,000 per worker. How would you feel if your boss paid you $5,000 less than you earned for your work?
The workers at UH aren’t alone: Texas workers lose $1.2 billion every year to wage theft, including one in five construction workers. We must stand with all working people who aren’t being paid what they earned and deserve. We all pay for the University of Houston, and our money should not sponsor worker exploitation–it must be spent fairly.
The University of Houston has until February 16 to respond to the workers’ prevailing wage complaint. Chancellor Renu Khator has the power to make the contractor pay its workers the money they’ve earned.
Call Chancellor Khator at 713-743-8820 and tell her that our public university must treat the workers building their institution fairly. She must fix this problem.
Want to do more? Contact these two city councilors and ask them to urge Chancellor Khator to make sure Austin Commercial is in compliance with the law and get workers paid what they’re owed.