Living Wages for All Workers
Since April of 2008, Austin Interfaith congregations and member institutions have publicly called on the Austin City Council to require that all jobs that emerge from tax abatements or other taxpayer funded incentives do the following:
- pay all of their employees a living wage
- provide health and retirement benefits
- create a career track for advancement and
- prioritize the hiring of local workers.
All sitting Councilmembers have publicly committed to supporting the City and County established living wage standard of at least $15 per hour.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is a Living Wage?
A living wage is a wage sufficient to for a worker to support themselves and their family. In some religious traditions, it is enough to "support a familiy in frugal comfort." In the market tradition, it is sufficient (in the words of Adam Smith) to prevent misery. In the policy-wonk tradition it is often calculated based on a family of four, and takes into account cost-of-living items such as housing, food, utilities, transportation and insurance. Austin Interfaith researched a number of living wage calculations. Local research by the Center for Public Policy Priorities pegs a living wage for a single parent of two children (with zero savings for emergencies, retirement or college) at $21/ hour. A living wage for a two-parent family with two children and zero savings is pegged at $25 /hour.
At this time, Austin Interfaith is fighting so that jobs that emerge from taxpayer-funded subsidies pay the City/County wage floor or prevailing wages, whichever is higher.
Why Should Corporations That Receive Tax Abatements Be Required to Pay a Living Wage?
In 2010, nearly 1 in 5 Austin residents lived in poverty and almost 1 in 3 children lived in poverty. These rates are among the highest in Texas, and both are higher than the national average.
During these uncertain economic times, the City of Austin must evaluate how it spends taxpayer funds very carefully. At a time when City budgets are being cut, it simply does not make sense incentivize poverty wages. Living wages that lift our residents out of poverty are more deserving of our investment.
Why Aren't Any Jobs, Even Low-Wage Jobs, Good for Economic Development?
Low wage jobs are counter-productive as a long-term economic development strategy. A good example of this is El Paso where in 1950, it had the strongest economy of any city in the southwestern US. It was a major manufacturing center, and its median income was 103% of the national average and its high school graduation rates were higher than the national average.
Over the next several decades, however, political and business leaders initiated a cheap labor strategy that focused on attracting and maintaining low wage jobs in textile and other manufacturing. 60 years later El Paso's economy is among the worst in the nation. Its income is 66% if the national average and its high school dropout rate is now 50%. a cheap labor strategy did not serve El Paso well. Austin has always been attractive to companies because of our educated workforce and quality of life. We do not want our tax dollars subsidizing low-wage jobs.