The University of Houston hired a Dallas-based construction company to handle its new Quadrangle Housing Replacement project. Several workers employed on the project say that they did not receive overtime pay or prevailing wages as state law requires. The workers, backed up by a workers’ rights group called the Workers Defense Project, assert that an estimated 700 workers on the project are missing pay estimated at $50,000 in total. They claim wage theft by the construction company and its subcontractors. 

The university has maintained that it does not have the responsibility to resolve the conflict between the company and the workers. Nevertheless, it is under increasing pressure from the Workers Defense Project to do something about it. 

University’s position 

According to a statement by UH’s executive director of media relations, it is the workers’ job classification that is at issue. The university goes on to assert that that is the construction company’s responsibility and not within the university’s authority to evaluate. The statement referred workers to report potential violations of labor law to the United States Department of Labor and/or the Texas Workforce Commission. 

The statement goes on to say that the university offered to facilitate a meeting between the contractors and subcontractors on one side and the Workers Defense Project on the other in the interest of conflict resolution. It is not clear whether this meeting actually took place. 

Campus protests 

The criticism from the Workers Defense Project is that the university is trying to absolve itself from any responsibility for wage theft. Those involved in the conflict directly, as well as students at the university, recently staged a protest on campus trying to draw attention to the issue. Approximately 50 people participated in all. 

Neither a university investigation nor an external audit of the general contractor requested in January demonstrated any violations or irregularities, per report. However, the Workers Defense Project plans to appeal the university’s determination. The construction company involved was not available when reached for comment.