The business of worker safety and training.

Workers Defense Project is a membership-based organization that empowers low-income workers to achieve fair employment through education, direct services, and strategic partnerships. They are focused on transforming conditions for immigrant workers in Texas.

Workers Defense Project came to The Workers Lab with an interest in creating a for-profit enterprise that would provide on-site training, monitoring, and certification of development projects in Austin called Better Builder. After participating in an Enterprise Institute we provided $150,000 in loan support, business development support, and leadership transition support to launch Better Builder. We helped them incorporate the business as well as supported them to develop pitch materials and RFPs for potential clients.

Today, Better Builder has made incredible strides for construction workers in Austin, Texas, catalyzing a change in industry-wide labor standards. Since launching, they have worked tirelessly not only to advocate for enforceable labor standards, but have also developed a set of standards for inclusion in the city's commercial building permitting process. In September 2016, the Austin City Council passed a resolution approving a new fast-track permitting process that included the Better Builder standards of a minimum living wage, mandatory workers' compensation, OSHA training, and a third-party on-site monitor to ensure standards are being met.

This project reconfirms that training, monitoring, and certification are ripe areas for business development. We learned that organizations that dedicate staff to enterprise development are more likely to gain traction as opposed to relegating enterprise development to already overburdened staff. We also believe that Better Builder's success is due in large part to their place-based focus; Workers Defense Project knows Austin and has been organizing there for some time resulting in deep relationships with workers, community members, and local elected officials.

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Summary of Support

$150K Loan + Support for incorporating
Better Builder LLC.


Key Milestone

Better Builder secured a historic agreement securing wage and safety protections in Austin Community College's bond package, anticipated to reach over 1,000 workers on $400M worth of construction projects.