Austin Interfaith leaders celebrated the passage of a historic living wage ordinance they had fought for over the course of five years. Institutional representatives from congregations, schools and workers associations challenged city council candidates in 2012 to craft an ordinance requiring that jobs emerging from taxpayer incentives pay at least a living wage or prevailing wage, if higher. An economic incentive team put together language, which included an exception process, that was later adopted by a Special Committee on Economic Incentives and proposed by Councilmembers Martinez, Tovo and Morrison Thursday night. Catholic Bishop Joe Vasquez intervened reading a statement of support for the ordinance at a 6pm rally, which was later read by an Austin Interfaith leader in Council chambers. After four hours of testimony and debate, the City of Austin passed, for the first time ever, a requirement that corporations receiving tapayer incentives be required to pay the City established living wage of $11 per hour or prevailling wages, whichever is higher.
Then There’s This: A ‘Decent Wage’, Austin Chronicle
In Austin, Workers Score Big, Texas Observer
Living Wages in Austin, Austin Interfaith
Austin Interfaith & Worker's Defense Project Calls on City to Enforce Own Rules on Economic Incentives & Construction Wages
‘Developers need to keep their promises to taxpayers and workers, and the city must enforce its own rules,’ said Kurt Cadena-Mitchell, a leader of Austin Interfaith, a multi-congregation group pushing the city to establish a standard above minimum wage on construction projects that are granted economic development deals by the city.” [Photo: Alberto Martinez, Austin American Statesman]
Labor Advocates Ask Court to Step into Marriott Dispute, Austin American Statesman
“National Instruments Corp. won approval Thursday for $1.7 million in city of Austin incentives to support the company’s proposed expansion of 1,000 Austin jobs over the next 10 years….
The deal was praised by representatives of Austin Interfaith because the company agreed to a floor wage of $11 an hour for all jobs, including construction jobs tied to the project. The company also agreed to work with contractors to ensure that construction workers on the project will be covered by worker’s compensation insurance.”
City OK’s $1.7 Million in Incentives to National Instruments, Austin American Statesman
After Austin Interfaith leaders took issue with a proposal that “would have allowed registered lobbyists to serve on the citizen committee that will guide the rewriting of the city’s land-development code…” the proposal was pulled.
Austin Interfaith leaders asserted that allowing lobbyists on the committee amounted to “blurring the lines between the duties and responsibilities of citizens in the democratic process and the role of … lobbyists who represent organized financial interests in the legislative process….”
Following Criticism, Austin to Keep Lobbyists Off Committee to Rewrite Land Use Rules, Austin American Statesman
Interfaith asks tough questions at candidate ‘accountability session’
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 Riley. Eric 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 **
In Fact Daily / De Hecho Cotidiano
Abril 12, 2011
Por Kimberly Reeves y Elizabeth Pagano
**Traducción hecho por Nidia Oporta de San Jose Catholic Church**
El foro de Responsabilidad de Austin Interfaith en la noche del Domingo facilmente sera la revision mas larga de esta temporada de elecciones y probablemente la multitud mas dificil que cualquier candidato para el consejo va a enfrentar cuando escojan decir “no” a cualquier “ asunto particular.
Lideres de Austin Interfaith pusieron en claro en la Seccion de responsabilidad que endorsan una agenda, no un candidato y que un “Si” de un candidato a un asunto era una invitacion a sostener a ese candidato a su palabra. Y no para sonar muy amenazante, pero ellos tenian no una sino dos, camaras de video grabando las respuestas de los candidatos para referencias futuras.
Un estimado de mas o menos 800 miembros de la audiencia en laIglesia Catolica San Ignacio Martir, una amplia seccion transversal de los grupos sostenian una pagina amarilla, en Ingles y Español y un espacio para marcar “si” o “no” por cada candidato en siete palabras claves: Seguridad del trabajador; la falta de viviendas de las personas sin hogar; inmigracion; salarios dignos; permisos de legado para conductores de taxi; asistencia a una cumbre; y participacion publica.
Oponentes y actuales miembros del consejo no tuvieron problemas diciendo si a algunos asuntos: requerir OSHA entrenamiento de seguridad en todos los proyectos de construccion que reciban subsidios de la ciudad o prestamos directos de la ciudad; estubieron de acuerdo en asociarse al clero de Austin Interfaith para tratar la falta de suficientes baños publicos y camas durante la noche para las personas sin hogar; independientemente de las leyes que pase la Legislatura sobre la reforma migratoria, esta seccion, apoya la posicion del Departmento de Policia de Austin que su function primordial es hacer cumplir la ley en lugar de ser una patrulla de inmigracion.
"Mis repuestas son si, si y si," Miembro del Consejo,Laura Morrison dijo a las tres primeras preguntas, para un salvaje aplauso de la audiencia. "Yoespero podercolaborar con Austin Interfaith para poner fin a la falta de viviendas de las personas sin hogar"
De una sola vez el miembro del Consejo, Max Nofziger, quien es el oponente a la actual Miembro del Consejo, Randi Shade, tambien ofrecio un "Si, Si y Si para una respuesta mas favorable de la multitud.
“Yo creo que todos nosotros tenemos una obligacion de ayudar a nuestro projimo”, “Nofziger dijo a la audiencia. “Yo creo que esta en la escritura enseñada aqui y en la biblia y yo creo que el gobierno puede ser una herramienta poderosa para ayudar a la gente. Eso es en lo que yo creo."
Otros candidatos tuvieron respuestas similares. La oponente de Shade, Kathie Tovo describio que era su obligacion el ayudar a las personas sin hogar como una persona de fe. En realidad, cada candidato dijo "si" a las primeras tres preguntas. Para tu propia cuenta, esos quienes habian sido previamente entrevistados y aparecieron en el foro incluyen a, Morrison, Nofziger, Shade, Tovo, Roger Chan y miembro del Consejo Chris Riley. Eric Rangel, quien es el oponente de Morrison, se sento con su congregacion en la audiencia pero no habia sido pre- entrevistado por el consejo de Austin Interfaith y, por lo tanto, no se le permitio participar en el foro.
Otras preguntas fueron mas retantes: requerir que todos las compañias de lucro que reciban subsidios de la ciudad que esten de acuerdo en pagar a los empleados por lo menos $34,000 al año con beneficios de cuidados de salud, un seguimiento en su profesion; apoyar "permiso legado," o medallon, para taxistas, de manera que ellos puedan cambiar entre empleadores; y abogar por cambios en la ordenanza de la ciudad sobre los grupos de presion o interes de manera que grupos sin fines de lucro como Austin Interfaith puedan hablar en el nombre de programas especificos de desarrollo humano financiados por la ciudad, siempre y cuando Austin Interfaith no este recibiendo fondos de esos programas.
Oponentes tuvieron un tiempo mucho mas facil con estas preguntas. Nofziger, por ejemplo, no tuvo problema criticando a Austin como "un patio de recreo para los ricos" cuando hablaban acerca de recorte de impuestos. Riley and Shade, al contrario, tuvieron problema dando garantias a la propuesta de salarios dignos por lucro. Ambos prefirieron respaldar la posicion actual de la ciudad, la cual require un salario de por lo menos $11 por hora.
"Yo no me comprometo a los $34,000," Shade dijo después de algunas idas y venidas acerca de si ella era un verdadero "no" en el llamado asunto de salarios dignos.
Ambos Shade y Riley tambien tuvieron problemas con los permisos de taxistas, con Riley expresando una necesidad de una nueva revision de la propuesta. Y Shade interpone que podría apoyar ajustar la ordenanza de la ciudad sobre los grupos de interes en nombre de organizaciones no lucrativas como Austin Interfaith, pero que la ordenanza, en general, sirve un propósito.
Despues de la junta, Riley estuvo de acuerdo que los permisos de taxistas podrian ser un problema; él noestaba segurode lasoluciónreal, todavia.
"Virtuamente todas las maneras en las que nosotros regulamos los taxis necesitan algo de trabajo, pero eso no es algo que sólo voy arriba y solo decreto donde estoy en eso.Eso va a implicar un proceso largo", dijo Riley cuando In Fact Daily le pregunto por qué el no voto en apoyo a los permisos legados de los conductores de taxi. “Yo estoy absolutamente comprometido a continuar ese proceso, pero yo no voy a predeterminar el resultado."
Similarmente, Riley explico que el estabareticente a aceptar el total de la obligación de salarios dignos para la relocalización de empresas subsidiadas por la ciudad. El explico a In Fact Daily que la renuencia se debía al hechoque había posiblementemas matices en el asunto que simplemente los salarios por hora, y un punto de corte a partir de $17 por hora podrían impedir que vinieran a Austin los trabajos con buenos beneficios y un seguimiento en la profecion.
El oponente de Riley, Roger Chan, dijo a In Fact que el tambien tenia preocupaciones acerca de la pregunta de salarios dignos aunque el ultimadamente voto si. Chan dijo fue el resultado final que era importante, no todas las pequeñas cosas.
"Si nosotros podemos balancear esos componentes y conseguir lo que necesitamos, eso es lo que importa, y el enfoque en cualquiera de esos podria no llevarte alla,” dijo Chan.
Riley dijo a In Fact Daily que el habia cumplido todas sus promesas a Austin Interfaith en su campaña previa, aunque el admitió que “hubieron unos desacuerdos acerca de exactamente que compromisos fueron hechos, durante el curso de ese proceso.”
Gina Hinojosa, una lider con Austin Interfaith hablo con In Fact Daily acerca desi alguno de los candidatos había roto los compromisos contraídos en las seciones de responsabilidad anteriores.
"Esto ha ocurrido," dijo Hinojosa, aunque ellos optaron por no llamar a ninguno de los candidatos en el foro “ Cambió el proceso. Ahora tenemos cámaras de video grabando las respuestas de todos y profesionales del vídeo que hacen esto por nosotros para que sepamos que es grabado." Hinojosa agregó que la acción pasada podría haber mostrado a los candidatos a no "asumir compromisos a la ligera."
"En el pasado, llevamos a nuestros miembros hasta el Consejo de la ciudad; los hacemos responsables de su compromiso Nosotros, si es necesario, hacemos llamadas telefónicas para recordarles su compromiso, tenemos reuniones con ellos, les dejamos saber a nuestros miembros en nuestras instituciones,” dijo Hinojosa.
"Quizas hubieron algunos no esta vez que nosotros no obtuvimos la ultima vez por que ellos saben que nosotros no vamos solamente a alejarnos cuando ellos no cumplan sus compromisos. Nosotros los vamos a responsabilizar por ellos." dijo Hinojosa
In Fact Daily: (posted on web for subscribers only; text pasted below and attached)
Three companies scouting city as Council considers new rules for incentives
Three companies involved in the manufacturing of solar panels are interested in moving their operations to Austin, according to Mayor Lee Leffingwell. Though nothing has been put in writing, Leffingwell has met with representatives from those companies, and, he said Wednesday, “all three are very seriously considering Austin.”
According to the mayor, one of the companies would like to be operational by next summer, though the process would involve several months of lead time even after an agreement with the city was reached. That company, Leffingwell said, is interested in moving into a shell rather than erecting a building from the ground up.
The mayor said he is encouraged by the news: “I have said, ever since 2005, that targeted industries, like those in the renewable energy business, would be specifically the ones we would want to talk to about coming to Austin.”
So, any changes to the city’s economic incentives policy—such as those being considered at today’s City Council meeting—are not just an academic exercise.
The Council is expected to approve an ordinance establishing an enhanced economic incentive proposal review process. That would require a formal cost-benefit analysis as part of the city's evaluation process for economic incentive agreements including “direct and indirect costs of such proposals.” It would also implement a timeline of 13 days to allow citizens to review and comment on any economic-incentive proposals before the Council could take action on them.
The ordinance is the result of a February Council resolution directing the city manager to convene a stakeholders group – made up of members of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Capital City African-American Chamber of Commerce, Liveable City, and Austin Interfaith – to consider elements of city policy concerning economic incentives. The group met on three occasions in March, April, and July to discuss the implementation of the cost-benefit analysis as well as a timeline for the city’s review process.
One issue the stakeholders group did not make a determination on concerns wages and benefits for workers employed by companies that receive tax incentives from the city. This is a concern for Austin Interfaith and other citizens’ organizations, which see the issue as vital to the economic and social future of the city. These groups want the Council to ensure that any companies receiving incentives from the city provide their employees with a living wage (no less than $18 an hour), health benefits, and clear paths to advancement within the company, and that those companies have a strategy to hire local workers.
According to Austin Interfaith Strategy Team member Minerva Camarena Skeith, these groups are concerned that economic incentives without built-in safeguards for local workers might cripple the economy. “We want to make sure,” she said, “that our tax dollars are being spent on bringing high-quality jobs to Texas, not just providing breaks for corporations. If companies are going to be profiting off our incentives, they should have to provide for the city and its citizens.”
“We have to ask ourselves: Is Austin is going to be a city of low-wage workers, or are we going to set a higher standard?”
According to Skeith, at accountability sessions Interfaith Austin held during this year’s elections, all current members of the City Council, including Leffingwell, made commitments to support worker protections in any economic-incentive legislation. “We’re confident,” says Skeith, “that the council members will honor their commitments.”
But one council member, Sheryl Cole, says she is concerned that such a proposal could have unintended consequences for the city. “I simply do not want us, in the interest of helping our work force earn more and receive more benefits,” Cole said, “to operate under a faulty premise and keep economic opportunities out of Austin for the most vulnerable members of our society.
“I certainly support living wages and health benefits. I am, however, concerned that we do not take any actions that have a negative impact on our unemployed and underemployed, such that we are not granting incentives to help those most in need of social-service assistance. I do, however, think that the ordinance can be drafted in such a way that we do not exclude any companies that have jobs that would be available to the most vulnerable members of our society but … that cannot pay the living wage or health benefits,”
Leffingwell, for his part, believes health benefits should be a necessary component of the city’s economic incentive agreements. “I don't see how the city could enter into an agreement with any company,” he said, “that did not provide the opportunity to have basic health insurance for its employees.”
Austin Interfaith Victory Pages
March 29th, 2010
A newsletter on the successes of Austin Interfaith member institutions
200 leaders participate in Austin Interfaith Annual Delegates Assembly – Organizing teams from each of Austin Interfaith member institutions gathered on March 9th at San Jose Catholic Church to develop the AI organizing strategy for the coming year. Teams made commitments for institutional dues, participation in the corporate investment campaign, identifying new leaders, and issues they will focus on. AI institutions more than doubled the size of their core leadership since last years assembly (85 organizing team leaders). Councilwoman Laura Morrison was also recognized at the assembly for sticking to her commitments to the organization on support for Capital IDEA and living wages.
Living Wages for Tax Subsidies – Over the past several months Austin Interfaith leaders have pushed to require companies receiving tax subsidies to move to Austin to pay living wages with benefits, a career track, and a strategy to hire locally. AI’s work has lead to a city resolution requiring companies to disclose the wages they pay the bottom 10% of their workers, as well as a commitment to moving hearings to after work hours. Most importantly, the points Austin Interfaith has been advocating for are now part of the public debate on every deal. (See attached press links).
In order to increase safety and reduce fear in Austin neighborhoods, AI leaders are working with APD Chief Art Acevedo and the Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton to build relationships and trust with law enforcement officers. After conducting a house meeting campaign in immigrant parishes, AI leaders surfaced stories of fear of immigrants being jailed and possibly deported for minor traffic violations. Chief Acevedo and Sheriff Hamilton affirmed that this is not the policy of their agencies and committed to working with Austin Interfaith to continue to build relationships and trust within the immigrant community.
ORGANIZIING TIP OF THE WEEK:
Individual meetings (aka “one-on-ones” or “relational meetings”) are primarily about identifying potential leaders. It is the most basic and most fundamental tool in broad-based organizing. Top leaders in the organization should be on a constant “talent search” by doing regular individual meetings. For an organizing team, individual meetings are best done as part of a campaign (1-3 months). Individual meetings are a 20-30 minute conversation focused on a persons’ story, passion, anger, important relationships, etc., and often end with a proposal for action.
Hugh Heclo, in his book, On Thinking Institutionally, makes the case that an openness to the traditions, values, and relationships, within institutions (congregations, schools, political and legal institutions, sports teams, etc) is necessary for full human development and a stable society. He makes a distinction between “bureaucratic” thinking, and “institutional thinking”, the latter being marked by an openness to receiving values passed on, and an understanding that we were formed by those who came before us, and our decisions have an impact on those who come after us.
Austin Interfaith/Austin Catholic Diocese Immigration Organizing Training, Saturday April 17th, 9:00am-12:00noon at the Austin Catholic Diocese Pastoral Center (6225 E. Hwy 290). This is open to all congregations interested in organizing around the issue of immigration. This effort has been a partnership of Austin Interfaith and the Austin Catholic Diocese Office of Hispanic Ministry.
Austin Interfaith Education Civic Academy, April 27th 2009, 6:30-8:00PM (check with the office to confirm location). This will take the place of the monthly leaders meeting and will be open to all institutions and leaders. The focus will be on understanding current issues impacting Central Texas districts as well as a strategy for education organizing.
Please call the Austin Interfaith Office with any questions: 512-916-0100