On Thursday, November 20, Austin Interfaith successfully ensured that contracts for concessions at Austin Bergstrom International Airport will require that concession workers be paid no less than the City Of Austin Living Wage. Austin Interfaith was the only voice from the community that advocated for this before the Airport Advisory Committee and City Council.
Austin Interfaith applauds D'Ann Johnson of the Airport Advisory Committee and Councilmember Laura Morrison for their support in bringing this issue forward.
At this time, the City of Austin living wage is set at $11.39 per hour. Leaders are working with labor partners across Central Texas to increase this living wage, and ensure that City of Austin temporary workers are similarly included.
The Austin Monitor reports that the number of temporary employees hired by the City of Austin has increased over each of the past three years, as have the number of those employees making less than $11.50 per hour. Though the city pays all of its roughly 12,000 regular employees at least $11.39 an hour, the same cannot be said for its thousands of temporary employees.
Said Equal Justice Center leader and AI Strategy Team member Kayvon Sabourian:
'Austin Interfaith is pleased that City Council, at the urging of Austin Interfaith institutions, is looking to bring the city’s ‘Temporary Workers’ under the City’s living wage policy...To be clear, we are talking about thousands of long-term, perennial and seasonal city jobs — jobs such as our crossing guards — not one-time gigs or strictly youth jobs. We know that in today’s economy, more and more Americans find themselves with no option but to cobble together such seasonal, part-time and contingent jobs to make ends meet...”
300 leaders of Austin Interfaith convened Mayoral and County Judge candidates for a teach-in and accountability session at Temple Beth Shalom which included challenges on Austin child poverty, affordability, investments in human development and local immigration reforms. In addition to yes / no responses, candidates were given several minutes to explain how they would work with the organization to address a cited child poverty rate of 30%, documented by City of Austin demographer Ryan Robinson.
Assembly night highlights included Mayoral candidate consensus on local immigration reforms (municipal identification and withdrawal). Judge candidates agreed on very little, but did agree that expanding investments in job training programs like Capital IDEA and creating internships for Career Expressway students were valuable to the County and the taxpayers. Strong stories on housing, immigration and Capital IDEA captured the attention of the press and galvanized the crowd.
[Photo Credit: Austin Monitor]
Full-Length Video, Austin Interfaith
Presentation on Taxes, Child Poverty & City Budget Priorities, Austin Interfaith
Austin Mayoral Candidates Offer Different Approaches on Affordability, Austin American Statesman
Austin Interfaith Grills Mayoral Candidates on Affordability, Austin Monitor [pdf]
County Judges Differ on Issues at Interfaith Event, Austin Monitor [pdf]
The Campaign Continues: Catching Up with Mayor and County Judge Wannabes, Austin Chronicle [pdf]
Press Conference on City Budget Priorities, KXAN & Time Warner Cable
Austin Interfaith leaders stood on the steps of Austin Energy the first day of City budget negotiations, denouncing the proposed budget as immoral. Said Oralia Garza de Cortes, “If our City is truly concerned about public safety, we should be placing that funding towards public institutions like libraries and programs for children and youth."
Leaders pointed to the list of budget priorities developed from hundreds of conversations on neighborhood walks, inside parish meetings and other member institutions.
Faith Leaders Call for Change in Budget Priorities, Time Warner Cable
Austin Interfaith leaders from the Equal Justice Center and Congregational Church of Austin hosted a civic academy, in collaboration with RAICES of San Antonio, to educate a crowd of about 100 about the dangers children are fleeing and challenges they face today. Experts from the UT Austin Longhorn Institute for Latin American Studies laid out the political context of the Central American region while Ryan, from RAICES, shared some historical perspective on US policy towards refugees. Two recent arrivals from Central America shared powerful testimonials about what they fled, bringing these issues to light.
[Photo Credit: Diocese of West Texas]
In Flight from Central America, Austin Chronicle
In response to Austin Interfaith's call to support unaccompanied minors from Central America, Austin City Council passed a resolution officially welcoming the children and calling on the City Manager to collaborate with other governmental entities to identify ways to support children relocating to Austin. City council also passed a resolution calling on City staff to explore ways of making a municipal ID available, which could provide a valid form of ID for adults currently lacking access to officially recognized identification. Both resolutions passed unanimously!
To Help Migrants, Austin Might Offer Services, Issue City ID Cards, Austin American Statesman
Austin Interfaith reported to the Austin American Statesman that the organization teamed up with judges to build a hybrid model that would improve indigent defense. She lobbied County Commissioners to support the establishment of a defender’s office that would assign lawyers to the cases of poor defendants.
The first year, Travis County would receive about $700 thousand to establish the new office, which would ensure that indigent defendants would have an opportunity to meet with their lawyers so that they understand their situation before going to trial.
[Photo Credit: Felipa Rodrigues, KUT News]
Travis County Accepts State Funding to Create Private Defender’s Office, Austin American Statesman
Austin Interfaith is calling for an organized, coordinated effort to receive a large number of unaccompanied minors. This, they say, shouldn’t be political. For AI strategy team leader Ofelia Zapata, the future of migrant children hits close to home. She sees the face of her own grandchild when she looks at them.
In a presentation to the Travis County Commissioners Austin Interfaith described the arrival of unaccompanied children a humanitarian crisis that requires a thoughtful and proactive response. Specifically leaders are calling on the County to coordinate the use of public buildings to temporarily house children before they are sent to relatives or a foster family and wait for their day in immigration court.
Religious Groups Ask County for Immigration Aid, Time Warner Cable News
Austin Interfaith Urges Travis Officials to Aid Migrant Children, Austin American Statesman
At a Central Health public hearing over how to use UMC Brackenridge when it closes and a replacement teaching hospital opens in 2017, Austin Interfaith leader suggested putting an array of social services on the campus. Services like daytime mental health care of seniors would simultaneously provide caregivers with short-term respite. “It could be a haven of hope for Austin” residents, Zapata said.
Residents Offer Ideas for Using UMC Brackenridge, Austin American Statesman
Koreena Malone knew she couldn’t do it alone. The single mother of three didn’t know how she could lead the charge to save 173 affordable housing units at her apartment complex. But if she did nothing, she risked losing her family’s apartment on a quiet tree-lined street that was close to her children’s school.
'I begged people – I can’t do this right now,” Malone said. “I was studying for the CPA, I’m a mother. I was, like, someone else has to take this on. There has to be somebody else.'
Lifting Up Leaders, National Catholic Reporter [Photo Credit: Nuri Vallbona, National Catholic Reporter, Global Sisters Report]