Migrant Work

I am acutely aware that there are ethical issues surrounding the photographing of migrant workers. I will not photograph anyone without their permission. This man was more than happy to participate, in fact it was hard to get a shot of him not smiling. He was quite shy about showing his teeth, they were all gold. Usually immigrants will take part, in fact it is the companys who employ them that would rather that you were not recording anything. This shot was from a previous module, but I wanted to include it here for context.

It is no surprise that this is an ongoing problem, Travis Putnams article is from 2016. These issues surrounding migrant workers still exist, undocumented immigrants have no shortage of work, migrant workers are the backbone of the construction industry in Houston. At the moment Texas is a republican state, however republican politicians refuse to even enter into dialogue about migrants, or their working conditions. This is where this subject gets murky. If undocumented migrants were to become somehow in short supply, it would most certainly cause the collapse of the construction industry. Varying reports document migrant workers as between 40-60% of the total construction workforce, however in one report two migrant workers stated that in all their time on sites they have never seen anyone other than Latino employees. Having spent a great deal of time around old and new construction over the last three years I can verify this statement.

There are better actors in this situation, companies that see the difficulties and are willing to press for better conditions. Mike Holland from the Construction Career Collaborative, C3. This collaborative aims to provide a path to safe working conditions, training and fair wage for our migrant workers.

“No sane person can look at what’s going on on our sites and advocate this.”
— Mike Holland, vice chairman of C3

Holland says substandard safety practices and poor wages are fueled by a long-rooted attitude that there is an unlimited supply of construction workers willing to do dangerous jobs for shockingly little pay. A big part of that supply comes from undocumented immigrants, who are easy for employers to take advantage of because the fear of deportation often stops them from speaking out against bad or unlawful treatment.

HILL, Travis Putnam. 2016. ‘In Texas, Undocumented Immigrants Have No Shortage of Work’. The Texas Tribune [online]. Available at: https://www.texastribune.org/2016/12/16/undocumented-workers-finding-jobs-underground-econ/ [accessed 23 Feb 2021].

REVEAL, Neena Satija, The Texas Tribune and. 2016. ‘Small Steps Aim to Lessen Exploitation of Texas Construction Workers’. The Texas Tribune [online]. Available at: https://www.texastribune.org/2016/12/22/better-builder/ [accessed 23 Feb 2021].

ROOT, Jay. 2016. ‘When Asked, Won’t Tell: Top Three Officials Duck Specifics on Illegal Hiring’. The Texas Tribune [online]. Available at: https://www.texastribune.org/2016/12/14/dont-ask-your-leaders-about-immigrants-workplace/ [accessed 23 Feb 2021].

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