Posts by jose@creedla.com

Working Dangerously in the Los Angeles Construction Trades

January 7th, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

The daily newspaper routinely reports construction accidents – one killed and three injured by falling rebar, a trench worker killed by a falling plate, a worker killed in a 53 story fall, and the stories continue.

A National Bureau of Labor Statistics report showed that California ranked second in the number of work related deaths, and that Los Angeles ranked 5th in the entire country. A study published by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health reveals that construction accidents are the second-leading cause of death for California workers. In the five-year period between 2013 and 2017, there were 309 reported construction-accident deaths in California. On average, one construction worker dies in a work-related accident each week.

The Los Angeles construction industry is booming. From towers and skyscrapers going up on every other block in downtown LA, to huge residential projects across Hollywood, to a $2.5 billion, 80,000-seat stadium in Inglewood, the construction industry is keeping workers busy across the Southland. But with that breakneck level of construction comes the danger of construction accidents as contractors and employers push workers to meet deadlines while trying to meet budgets.

Injuries arise from risks which can be reduced by attention to compliance with federal and state safety laws for working conditions, hours, equipment care and training. Risks in construction work include:

  • Falls (the single greatest risk in construction work)
  • Electrocution and burns
  • Defective or poorly-maintained machinery or tools
  • Trench collapse injuries

Common causes of construction accidents include:

  • Failure to follow federal and state safety laws and guidelines
  • Failure to provide workers with proper safety equipment
  • Extended working hours, leading to worker fatigue and oversight
  • Lack of proper training
  • Lack of employer safety planning

A research project reviewed construction accidents in several cities including Los Angeles, and based on statistical data made a series of recommendations to reduce the frequency of construction worker injuries and death at the design stage.

  • The construction industry should implement the concept of designing for construction safety as a standard practice to reduce safety risks to workers. This process involves recognizing risks and minimizing them in the design phase of each project.
  • Designers should include fall protection in specifications for roofs, skylights, and structural steel construction.
  • Designers should include barriers and other measures that prevent contact with electrical and other utilities.
  • Designers should consider incorporating design-for-safety measures in all types of projects (residential, commercial, and industrial) as well as new projects, renovation, and demolition.
  • Root-cause accident analysis and other accident investigations should routinely consider whether design-for-safety modifications could have prevented the incident.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should consider broad-based methods and initiatives to integrate the concept of designing for construction safety into construction

State government is active in establishing standards for construction worker safety, and is increasingly vigilant in enforcement. Recent changes in the labor law regarding who is a private contractor and who is an employee will bring many workers under the protection of these labor standards and laws. The progress is valuable, but much more needs to be done before the daily newspaper can stop reporting the deaths and injuries to Los Angeles construction workers.

Construction Worker Safety

December 12th, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

Construction workers earn a median annual pay of $34,500. This is at a time when a one bedroom apartment rents for about $2,000/month and 3 bedroom for close to $4,000/month. Simply put, construction workers don’t make enough money to live in the buildings they are constructing. To add injury to insult, the work is dangerous as some recent area headlines attest:

Until a new law took effect in California, many construction firms treated workers as Independent Contractors and provided no health insurance or workman’s compensation. Under the new law, there are clear requirements for the proper classification of workers and with it, compensation for on the job injuries. It is unclear how effective the law has been in the short time since it was signed into law or how much employees feel empowered to demand their newly won status.

Construction work is physically demanding, and yet it remains among the least likely to have its workers covered by employer-provided health insurance. Of the 20 professions least likely to have health insurance, 11 of them are in the construction industry, according to MarketWatch. The average uninsured rate for full-time workers in the U.S. is 12%, but the percentage of certain categories of construction workers without health insurance is much higher, including roofers (50.5%); drywall hangers, finishers and ceiling tile installers (49.5%); plasterers and stucco masons (49.1%); fence installers (45.7%); carpet, tile and floor installers (45.2%); painters and paperhangers (43.1%); construction trade helpers (42.8%); installation, maintenance and repair helpers (40.5%); cement masons, concrete finishers and terrazzo workers (38.7%); brick masons, block masons, stonemasons and reinforced iron and rebar workers (38.6%); and laborers (37.5%).

If a construction worker is not injured on the job or does not become ill from the demanding physical conditions of daily work, they arrive at the age when their bodies can no longer handle the rigors of their profession, only to find that their employers owe them nothing for years of work. The Center for Construction Research and Training reports that construction workers are less likely than other workers to be eligible for retirement benefits. From 2000 to 2010, the percentage of wage-and-salary construction employees eligible for retirement benefits of any kind dropped from 46% to 38%, the center reported. That number is surely heading further downward.

While California is experiencing a housing crisis, and a building boom, there is a shortage of skilled workers making a career in the field. The four part whammy of inadequate pay, uncertain classification for worker’s compensation, inadequate or non-existent health insurance and the lack of retirement security make the field unattractive for young people when job choices for young people are expanding and unemployment is at record lows.

Los Angeles Construction Boom Offers Opportunities and Challenges for Construction Workers

November 11th, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

Downtown Los Angeles is experiencing an explosive growth in construction of retail, commercial, office space and residential projects.

Residential development experienced a growth of almost 3,300 homes completed in 2018, with 7000 more under construction and plans for 35,000 additional units. A massive three million square feet of office space under construction during 2018 combined with over 9,000 new hotel rooms and more than three million square feet of office space. Equivalent growth in retail space adds to the boom.

At the end of 2018, there were almost 3 million square feet of office space under construction in downtown Los Angeles, according to the Downtown Center Business Improvement District’s Q4 2018 Market Report , along with 1.1 million square feet of retail and 1,271 hotel rooms. These numbers pale in comparison to proposed projects, which would add almost 9,500 more hotel rooms, 2.6 million square feet of additional retail and another 3.3 million square feet of office space.

The boom in each of these sectors has accelerated the demand for construction workers in all trades. This might reasonably be expected to result in higher wages and benefits for workers in such high demand. However, a report as of September 22, 2019 shows that the average construction worker in Los Angeles is paid $17.19 per hour. The bottom 10% are paid $12.60 and the top 10% $25.80. With bonuses, the average annual salary ranges from 23,957 – $72,400 with an overall average of about $35,000 before taxes. The average salary of all workers in Los Angeles is $56,000 per year AFTER taxes.

Construction workers fare no better in benefits provided by their employers. A whopping 62% of construction workers report that their employers offer no benefits. 38% of workers receive medical coverage, 15% are covered by dental and vision benefits. Many, if not most, are not offered retirement plans.

Los Angeles ranks in the top 50 most expensive cities to live in in the United States. A one bedroom apartment rents for between $1,700 and $2,200 per month (after tax dollars) and a 3 bedroom apartment runs over $3,900/month. Childcare for preschool costs over $1,000/month. If the worker is in the 62% who receive no benefits, then medical insurance is yet another large cost. Even these basic costs demonstrate that construction salaries fail to yield a livable wage for its workers.

As salaries and benefits fail to keep pace , the construction trades have become less attractive, and employers report difficulty finding trained workers. The solution to the construction crisis in California will be hamstrung until conditions to make construction trades more attractive are established and workers paid a living wage, with adequate benefits, training and retirement.

Labor Law Protections for California Construction Workers

October 15th, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

With the dramatic reduction in the number of California construction workers representation by unions, employers have pushed the boundaries of the law in compensating workers. Many workers are unaware of the protections offered by the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, and others, while aware, recognize that to complain is to invite termination. With the increase in the participation in the construction industry by immigrants, many are hesitant to come forward over concerns of immigration status. Failing to record all hours actually worked including working before or after the shift occurs.

  • Shorting hours by using terms such as down time or rain delay
  • Not compensating construction workers for mandatory labor law breaks where the employee is not completely relieved of all duties to enjoy uninterrupted time for the meal
  • Banking of overtime hours or payment of overtime in the form of “comp time”
  • Failing to combine hours worked for overtime purposes by an employee in more than one job classification for the same employer within the same workweek
  • Failing to segregate and pay overtime hours on a workweek basis when employees are paid on a bi-weekly or semi-monthly basis
  • Failing to pay for travel time from shop to work-site and back

The first step for construction workers is to know what benefits and protections are provided by the Fair Labor Standards Act, and other legal standards in California. The State of California Department of Industrial Relations provides detailed information as to employer’s responsibilities and workers rights in the state. The Bureau of Field Enforcement is charged with investigating complaints. BOFE is responsible for the investigation and enforcement of statutes covering workers’ compensation insurance coverage, child labor, and cash pay.

All workers in California are protected by labor laws. No one filing a complaint will be questioned as to immigration status or report any status to other government agencies. There is no need for a social security number or a photo identification to report a labor law violation.

Perhaps most importantly, The Retaliation Complaint Unit investigates allegations of retaliation against workers for filing complaints concerning termination, suspension, transfer or demotion, reduction in pay or hours, disciplinary actions or threats, and unfair immigration-related practices.

As the construction industry moves to meet the increasing workload of resolving the state’s housing crisis, it is imperative that those doing the actual work of construction have their rights and benefits assured.

California Construction Workers Find Protections in New Law

September 15th, 2019 Posted by Uncategorized No Comment yet

For many decades the workers in the United States have been protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act which provided wage, hour and benefit protections for employees.  However, it failed to regulate the compensation and benefits for independent contractors.  Over the years more and more employers simply treated many of their workers as “independent contractors” and were thus able to deny workers the protections afforded by labor law.

All that changed when in California in 2018 the California Supreme Court created a new test to establish the conditions when make a worker and “employee” rather than an “independent contractor.”  As of January 1, 2020 these changes become law and have profound effect for construction workers throughout California.

Under the new law the definition on an employee is controlled by what is called an “ABC Test.”  The new law assumes all workers are employees and entitled to full benefits unless the employer can demonstrate all of three conditions:  

  • First the employer must prove that the worker is free from “control and direction” of the employer in carrying out their work.  
  • Second, the employer must demonstrate that the work being done by the employee is outside the normal functions of the employer’s business
  • Third, the employer must present evidence that the worker is “customarily engage” in a business of the same types as the work done on the job.

Under the new law workers will have the full protection of California labor law for workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and social security taxes, and for some employees a host of wage-related issues, including overtime, meal and rest periods.  Additionally, the new law strengthens the penalties for wage-hour violations by employers.  

CREED LA celebrates these improvements in the recognition of the value of a highly trained and professionalized work force with respect for fair wages, training and benefits. 

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