Construction workers and others in the Austin, Texas, area are celebrating a coalition victory this week after Travis County commissioners approved a first-ever economic development policy that includes a living wage requirement.
The policy requires contractors asking for tax incentives to move into the county to pay all employees at least $11 per hour. It’s a significant improvement over the prevailing construction hourly wage of $7.50.
On the same day the county provision passed, a subcommittee of the Austin City Council passed a similar policy, which will come to the full council in the coming months. As reported in the Austin American-Statesman, both the city and county have been criticized about generous tax incentives offered in recent years to major companies such as Apple and Marriott.
Along with faith-based and student organizations, the Texas Building and Construction Trades Council, the Laborers (LIUNA), the Electrical Workers (IBEW), AFSCME Local 1624, Education Austin (AFT) and Texas State Employees Union (TSEU)/CWA Local 6186 participated in the yearlong campaign spearheaded by the Austin-based Workers Defense Project (WDP). The 1,000-member WDP has worked for 10 years on wage theft and other workers’ rights issues.
“Really, what this means is construction workers are starting to have a say in their working conditions and their pay,” WDP organizer Greg Casar told a celebratory crowd after the county commissioners voted.
This post was originally posted on November 30, 2012 at AFL-CIO NOW. Reprinted with Permission.
About the Author: Barbara Doherty: My dad drove a laundry delivery truck in San Francisco and I came to appreciate unions sitting in the waiting room at the Teamsters vision center there. More than 30 years ago, I joined the international SEIU publications staff (under the union’s legendary, feisty president, George Hardy). Living in California, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., over the years, I have contributed countless news and feature articles, as well as editing, to the publications and websites of unions in the public and private sectors and the construction trades.