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City Expands Construction Safety Training at Urging of Worker’s Defense Project & Austin Interfaith

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.

Video of City Council (Click on Item 106)

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City Requires Just Wages for Construction Workers at the Urging of Austin Interfaith and Allies

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.

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Divine Intervention at the Ballot Box

 

Perhaps there is another explanation for the increased turnout in early voting for the runoff election: Austin Interfaith.

In a release on Thursday, the ecumenical group said it has “conducted an intensive non-partisan Get out the Vote Campaign” over the past three months for the May 14 city election and the June 18 runoff. According to the group, more than 100 leaders from 27 Austin Interfaith member institutions took to their pulpits, got on the phone and went door-to-door to get out the vote. Its leaders targeted five specific precincts: on the East side precincts 124, 438 and 439; on the South side in Dove Springs, Precinct 450; and on the North side, Precinct 163.

During the last weekend of early voting Austin Interfaith leaders engaged over 700 households with the result that early voting was up significantly, they say. Austin Interfaith targeted several precincts in November 2010 with similar results.

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ELECCION DE SEGUNDA VUELTA: 18 DE JUNIO!

Austin Interfaith les urge a votar según su consciencia en la elección de segunda vuelta para el consejo municipal.

Haz 'click' en el articulo o video abajo para descubrir como las candidatas Randi Shade y Kathy Tovo respondieron a la agenda de Austin Interfaith sobre la seguridad en el trabajo, permisos legados para los taxistas y un sueldo digno.

Artículo

Video

 

La votación temprano comienza Lunes, 6 de Junio y termina el Martes, 14 de Junio.

Los lugares para votar están abiertos entre 7:00 am – 7:00 pm en el Ultimo Día para Votar – Sábado, 18 de Junio.

Para Aprender Donde Votar (utilizando su numero de precinto)

Para Encontrar Donde Votar Utilizando un Mapa


Aprenda mas sobre nuestra lucha para el derecho de participar en las decisiones que afecta programas como la capacitación laboral, los clases de inglés y los programas para los niños después de la escuela. 
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GOTV effort by AI leaders seeks to reverse typically low turnout

So Far, Another Sleepy Austin Election May 7, 2011 4:16 pm by: Erika Aguilar Austin voters have showed little interest in early voting so far this year, says Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir. She says less than two percent of registered voters in Travis County have cast ballots for the Austin City Council Elections. “We’ve only had a little more than six thousand people go in person to early vote,” DeBeauvoir said. “That is really, pretty low.” DeBeauvoir is quick to remind people that there are still a few days left in early voting. The deadline is Tuesday. The meager turnout is motivating community members with Austin Interfaith to hit the streets. This weekend the group block-walked in East Austin neighborhoods to remind people to vote. Minerva Camarena Skeith knocked on apartment doors at the Booker T. Washington complex in East Austin. “There are a lot of people who are registered, it’s concentrated, and we can go very quickly,” she said. Travis County’s DeBeauvoir says low voter turnout is usually the norm in City Council elections, especially when there is no Mayor’s race or hot-button initiative on the ballot. ” I think the highest percentage turnout we’ve had is about 13 percent, here, in the most recent years,” DeBeauvoir said. It was the smoking ordinance proposed in the May of 2005 that drew out that modest crowd of voters. DeBeauvoir said she believes people just haven’t gotten around to voting yet. But Minerva Camarena Skeith says some are just confused. “Part of us coming out here walking to encourage people to vote is that you’ll hear these misconceptions and myths about voting or why people don’t vote, and we can both educate but also encourage and make sure there is a purpose for voting,” Camarena Skeith said. Take Janice Bell. She hasn’t voted in five years because she thought she had to register to vote every year in order to cast a ballot. “Ohh, (people are) probably like me. Thinking you have to register every year or if you done change your address, you have to go through a lot more difficulties, you know, so it’s probably just the change,” she said. Whatever the reason, you still have until Tuesday to make your choice. Just take your driver’s license with to any polling center in town. But on Election Day, Saturday, May 14, voters will need to report to their assigned precinct to vote. eaguilar@kut.org
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Press Conference, letters of support

Network of Texas I.A.F. Organizations PRESS STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 5, 2011 FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Paul Skeith, 484-0590 On May 5, 2011 at 11:30 a.m. , The Network of Texas IAF Organizations will hold a press conference calling on the House and Senate to pass a budget that invests in the future of Texas. This includes spending the rainy day fund and finding new sources of revenue to fully fund public education, healthcare, and economic development initiatives like the Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) Fund. The press conference will be held in room E1.026 in the Capitol. “We cannot cut investments that secure our economic future. Education and healthcare are investments in human capital, and the JET fund is designed to help labor markets work more effectively,” said Father Alfonso Guerra of Valley Interfaith. He added “The Senate budget is better than the House budget, but both need to invest more.” Last session, the Network of Texas IAF Organizations worked with Comptroller Susan Combs and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst to create the $25 million Jobs and Education for Texans ( JET ) Fund. This includes the $10 million Launchpad Fund for successful nonprofits such as Capital IDEA in Austin, Project QUEST in San Antonio, Project VIDA in the Rio Grande Valley, and ARRIBA in El Paso. These projects train adults earning on average $10,000 before entering the program for jobs which pay $38,000 on average after graduation. The Network of Texas IAF Organizations also supports greater investments in public education funding and scholarships programs like the Texas Grants. “We understand that these are tough budget times, but failing to adequately invest in workforce and education will weaken our state’s ability to compete economically and attract business,” said Paul Skeith, a leader with Austin Interfaith. “With 68% of Texans without a college education, we need investment in strong public schools that prepare students for college and adult workforce projects that move people out of a cycle of poverty[i].” Attached is a list of Texas business leaders who have written letters in support of reauthorization of the JET fund. The Network of Texas IAF Organizations includes the following organizations: Dallas Area Interfaith, Communities Organized for Public Service, Metro Alliance Border Interfaith, Valley Interfaith, Austin Interfaith, El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization, Allied Communities of Tarrant, The Border Organization, The Metropolitan Organization, West Texas Organizing Strategy. Letters of support to the JET Fund: Austin Interfaith Members of the Central Texas Business Community (Martha Smiley, Mark Curry, Jay Hailey, W. Eric Hehman, Earl Maxwell, Adrian Neeley, Allyson Peerman, Pete Winstead) The Austin Diagnostic Clinic (Robert W. Spurck, Jr., FACHE, Chief Executive Officer) Austin Chamber of Commerce (Michael W. Rollins, CCE, President) Real Estate Council of Austin (Jeff Howard, President) EPISO Bank of the West (Burt Blacksher, Executive Vice President) Wells Fargo (Martha Rochford) The Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce (Richard E. Dayoub, President and CEO) Hunt Companies, Inc. (Joshua W. Hunt, Senior Vice President) Stephen J. Wolslager The Electric Company, El Paso Electric (Richard Fleager, Senior Vice President, Customer Care and External Affairs) University Medical Center of El Paso (James N. Valenti, President and CEO) Valley Interfaith Brownsville Chamber of Commerce (Angela R. Burton, President and CEO) Valley Regional Medical Center (David Handley, Chief Executive Officer) TMO MFR, Accountants & Consultants (Gasper Mir, III, Pricipal, MFR, P.C.) United Way of Greater Houston (Anna M. Babin, President and CEO) Memorial Hermann Healthcare System (Dan Wolterman, President and CEO) Marek Family of Companies (Stan Marek, CEO) COPS/Metro San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (Ramiro A. Cavazos) Tom Frost Alamo Colleges (Bruce Leslie, Chancellor) Dallas Area Interfaith Baylor University Medical Center (John McWhorter, President
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Interfaith asks tough questions at candidate Accountability Session

In Fact Daily 
April 12, 2011

Interfaith asks tough questions at candidate ‘accountability session’

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By Kimberly Reeves and Elizabeth Pagano

 

Austin Interfaith’s Sunday night accountability forum easily will be the largest vetting this election season and probably the toughest crowd any Council candidate will face when choosing to say “no” to a particular issue.

 

Leaders of Austin Interfaith made it clear at that accountability session that it endorsed an agenda, not a candidate, and that a “yes” on an issue from a candidate was an invitation to hold that candidate to his or her word. And, not tosound too menacing, but they had not one, but two, video cameras recording the responses of the candidates for future reference.

 

An estimated 800 or so members of the audience at St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church, a broad cross section of groups, held a yellow sheet, in English and Spanish, and a space to mark “yes” or “no” for each candidate on seven key words: worker safety; homelessness; immigration; living wage; taxi driver legacy permits; attendance at a summit; and public participation.

 

Challengers and incumbents had no problem saying yes to some issues: require OSHA safety training on all construction projects that receive city subsidies or direct city lending; agree to partner with Austin Interfaith clergy to address the shortage of public restrooms and overnight beds for the homeless; and, regardless of what passes the Legislature on immigration reform this session, support the Austin Police Department’s position that its primary role is law enforcement rather than immigration patrol.

 

“My answers are yes, yes and yes,” Council Member Laura Morrison said to the first three questions, to wild applause from the audience. “I look forward to partnering with Austin Interfaith to end homelessness.”

 

One-time Council member Max Nofziger, who is challenging incumbentCouncil Member Randi Shade, also offered a “yes, yes and yes” to a rather favorable response from the crowd.

 

“I believe that we all have an obligation to help our fellow man and woman,” Nofziger told the audience. “I believe that is in the scripture taught here and in the Bible, and I believe that government can be a very powerful tool to help people. That’s what I believe in.”

 

Other candidates had similar responses. Shade challenger Kathie Tovo described helping the homeless as her obligation as a person of faith. In fact, every candidate said “yes” to the first three questions. For your own tally, those who had pre-interviewed and appeared at the forum included Morrison, Nofziger, Shade, Tovo, Roger Chan and Council Member Chris RileyEric Rangel, who is challenging Morrison, sat with his congregation in the audience but had not pre-interviewed with the Austin Interfaith board and, hence, was not allowed to participate in the forum.

 

Other questions were more challenging: require all for-profit companies that receive city subsidies to agree to employee wages of at least $34,000 a year with health care benefits and a career track; support a portable “legacy permit,” or medallion, for cab drivers, so they could switch between employers; and advocate for changes in the city’s lobbying ordinance so non-profits such as Austin Interfaith could speak on behalf of specific city-funded human development programs, as long as Austin Interfaith wasn’t getting funds.

 

Challengers had a far easier time with these questions. Nofziger, for instance, had no problem criticizing Austin as “a playground for the wealthy” when talking about tax breaks. Riley and Shade, on the other hand, ran into trouble giving guarantees to the for-profit living wage proposal. Both preferred to back the current position of the city, which was to require a wage of at least $11 per hour.

 

“I am not committing to the $34,000,” Shade said after some back-and-forth about whether she was an actual “no” on so-called living wage issue. 

Both Shade and Riley also had problems with the taxicab permits, with Riley expressing a need for further review of the proposal. And Shade had to interject that she might support tweaking the city’s lobbying ordinance on behalf of non-profits like Austin Interfaith but that the ordinance, in general, served a purpose.

 

After the meeting, Riley agreed that the taxicab permits might be an issue; he just wasn’t sure of the actual solution, just yet.

 

“Virtually every way in which we regulate taxis needs some work, but that’s not something I’m just going to up and just decree where I am on that. That’s going to involve a long process,” said Riley when asked by In Fact Daily why he did not vow to support taxi driver legacy permits. “I’m absolutely committed to continuing that process, but I’m not going to predetermine the outcome.”

 

Similarly, Riley explained that he was reticent to agree to the total of the living wage requirement for city-subsidized relocating businesses. He explained to In Fact Daily that reluctance was due to the fact that there was perhaps more nuance than simply hourly wage to the issue, and a cutoff at $17 per hour could prevent jobs with good benefits and career tracks from coming to Austin.

 

Riley’s opponent, Roger Chan, told In Fact that he also had concerns about the living wage question, although he ultimately voted yes. Chan said it was the end result that was important, not all of the little things.

 

“If we can balance those components and get what we need, that’s what matters, and the focus on any one may not get you there,” said Chan.

 

Riley told In Fact Daily that he had kept all of his promises to Austin Interfaith in his previous campaign, although he admitted that “there were some disagreements about exactly what commitments were made, during the course of that process.”

 

Gina Hinojosa, a leader with Austin Interfaith spoke with In Fact Daily about whether any of the candidates had broken commitments made at previous accountability sessions.

 

“It has happened,” said Hinojosa, although they chose not to call out any of the candidates at the forum. “It changed the process. Now we have video cameras recording everybody’s answers and professional videographers doing that for us so that we know it’s recorded.” Hinojosa added that past action might have shown the candidates not to “take commitments lightly.”

 

“In the past, we bring our membership down to City Council; we hold them accountable to their commitment. We, if necessary, make phone calls to remind them of their commitment, we get meetings with them, we let our members in our institutions know,” said Hinojosa.

 

“Maybe there were some no’s this time that we didn’t get last time, because they know we’re not going to just walk away when they don’t honor their commitments. We’re going to hold them to it,” said Hinojosa

 

** Traducción hecho por Nidia Oporta de San Jose Catholic Church **

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