Leaders piled into City Hall to ask City council members to raise the minimum workers would be paid. Says Garcia,”When we’re using public funds we’ve got to bring in jobs where families can at least afford to eat.”
On the morning of October 6th, Austin City Council passed the Public Health and Human Service budget and two other items that moved additional funding to Capital Idea, keeping the program at 2011 level funding ($1.08 million) for FY 2012. Over the last year leaders attended public hearings and council meetings to challenge the City's no-lobbying ordinance and eventually met face-to-face meetings with council members to secure this funding as well as the expansion of funding for other programs.
This past month Travis County Commissioners Court voted not only for the continuation of level funding ($700,000) for Capital Idea it also added another $97,000 to help supplement cuts from the state.
Leaders from the Worker’s Defense Project, a member institution of Austin Interfaith, successfully lobbied city council members to pass a resolution that will protect and train workers on all city-owned construction sites, whether or not a third-party is the developer. Until now, city contracts did not require safety trainings in a situation where the city allows a third party to develop city-owned property (examples of such developments are the Mueller Development, the Seaholm Power Plant and Water Treatment Plant No. 4.)
The resolution will also require that a safety supervisor with 30 hours of training be present at construction sites. A study released by the University of Texas in 2009 found that the Texas construction industry is the most deadly in the nation, with a worker dying on the job every 2.5 days. In Austin, one in every five construction workers is seriously injured on the job, in part because 64% of construction workers have never received a basic safety training. Numerous studies have found that safety training reduces costly accidents and saves lives.
At the Austin Interfaith Accountability Session this past April 800 people gathered, heard stories on a range of issues including unsafe working conditions and asked all candidates for city council if they would support expanded safety training. The candidates publicly answered that they would, and they kept their commitment—now all workers on city-owned construction sites, even when a third party developer is used, will be provided with an OSHA 10 hour safety training prior to working on the construction site.
As part of a $4.3 Million subsidy by the City of Austin to White Lodging Services Corp. to build a convention center hotel, Austin Interfaith, building trades unions, the Equal Justice Center and the Workers Defense Project (a member institution of Austin Interfaith), called on the City Council to require the company to pay all its construction workers the prevailing wage for their industry. (Prevailing wage is the industry standard set by the Federal government for a locale). Austin Interfaith leaders Patty Saragusa, Gina Hinojosa and Emily Timm worked on this effort as part of Austin Interfaith's living wage strategy and efforts to make sure any public subsidies to private companies lead to public gains like living wage jobs. In a related issue, investors behind the Formula One Racetrack decided to pay their own local match to state's $25 Million / year subsidy rather than ask the city council for the local subsidy.