At the urging of Austin Interfaith, Central Texas Bishops, Catholic Charities and immigration reform allies, Austin City Council unanimously passed an official denunciation of Travis County's "Secure Communities," directing the City Manager to explore alternative ways to book arrests. High achieving 13-year old Alan Gonzalez Otero, from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church and Austin Interfaith, testified against Secure Communities, describing an occasion when he was 9 years old and thought he might never see his father again. Rev. Thomas VandeStadt of the Congregational Church of Austin reminded the Council that Central Texas Bishops opposed cooperation between law enforcement and immigration, and that "on principle" was opposed to Secure Communities. City Hall Chambers, filled with 300 supporters of the resolution, erupted in cheers as the Mayor announced the 7-0 vote.
After Austin Interfaith leaders and allies rallied at AISD to urge school board members to vote in support of federal prevailing wages for bond project construction workers, the AISD votes in support of living wages a little before midnight. Barbara Budde of the Austin Catholic Diocese started off testimony that night with a letter from Bishop Joe Vasquez urging the school board to support the proposal. Leaders of Austin Interfaith member institutions IBEW, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, Education Austin, LiUNA, Workers Defense Project, Painters Local 1779 and the Equal Justice Center delivered impassioned testimony to the same end.
In the 5-4 vote, trustees Tamala Barksdale, Gina Hinojosa, Jayme Mathias, Ann Teich and Amber Elenz voted for the federal prevailing wages. [Photo Credit: Austin American Statesman]
Austin District Approves Prevailing Wages for Bond Work, Austin American Statesman
Dozens of Austin Interfaith leaders convened at an AISD school board work session to ask the board to abandon the use of an outdated 2005 wage standard and adopt federal Davis-Bacon wage standards, in line with what the City of Austin, Travis County and Del Valle ISD use when paying construction workers for school projects. Leaders from Education Austin, LiUna, Workers Defense Project, Travis Heights Elementary, IBEW, Temple Beth Shalom, St. David Episcopal Church and the Equal Justice Center testified about the benefits to workers, families, the school district and the economy at large. In photo, Minerva Camarena-Skeith explains to Telemundo Austin how Davis Bacon wage standards would benefit construction workers.
Activistas Presionan A Distrito Escolar de Austin para Aumentar Salarios, Telemundo Austin
Rabbi Alan Freeman and Harmon Motch reflect on a 10:1 redistricting civic academy held at Temple Beth Shalom last month in District 10, and what this means in the upcoming election.
In Austin’s District 10, a Focus on Preserving the Good Things, Austin American Statesman
The Austin Independent School District Board approved several construction projects last night. That's despite the fact that the workers hired for those projects will be paid based on 2005 standards.
The issue came up at the school board's meeting last month - when trustees talked about adopting a new pay rate study. But so far, that hasn't happened.
Minerva Camarena-Skeith is a member of the non-partisan group Austin Interfaith. She says the old pay rate scale is hurting local families.
"Last month we were glad to hear from this board that we should not be approving construction projects with a price tag with the 2005 labor standards - and that was about $2 million. Yet here we are again today with the consent agenda asking for eight contracts that are over $3 million under those old wage standards."
Trustees said last month they decided to move forward with projects in order to make sure they were complete by the start of next school year.
Projects on the consent agenda last night included moving and renovating portable classrooms and modifying kitchen plumbing systems across the district.
"Kayvon Sabourian, an attorney with the Equal Justice Center and a representative with Austin Interfaith, said he wants the district to move forward with the federal rates because they are readily available and can be adopted immediately, rather than pay 2005 rates to workers for some projects and then paying them a different wage later once the district has updated its pay rates. 'There’s a real concern about spending the bond money using 2005 standards,' Sabourian said. 'Morally, we shouldn’t as a community use taxpayer money to pay people under the prevailing wages of today. We should be paying construction workers what they’re owed: the prevailing wages of today, not 10 years ago.'"
Labor Groups Ask Austin District to Adopt Federal Wage Rates, Austin American Statesman
At a Social Justice Shabbat organized by Temple Beth Shalom, Koreena Malone regaled the crowd with her story of community triumph, a modern day David & Goliath battle between tenants of low-income Oak Creek Village and "lots and lots of lawyers" on the side of the developer. Through conversation between tenants, neighborhood council, the developer, lawyers and the City, an affordable housing convenant addressing all stakeholders' interest was negotiated.
Austin Interfaith leader, Leland Butler of St. Thomas More Catholic Church, points out that District 6 has its pockets of poverty, with "apartment complexes springing up and filling with people who can’t afford central-city rents."
In Austin’s District 6, a Different Set of Priorities, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Austin Interfaith leaders (including representatives from Education Austin) descended on an Austin Independent School District (AISD) meeting to urge Board members to support fair wages for construction workers on AISD-funded projects. Philip Lawhorn, of member institution International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), urged the Board to adopt the Davis-Bacon wage rate, which relies on federal wage standards for laborers. AISD is currently using wage rates based on a 2005 study, something Kayvon Sabourian of the Equal Justice Center notes "doesn't cut it in 2014 Austin."
Austin ISD to Reexamine Wage Rates for Construction Workers, Community Impact
Leaders of Temple Beth Shalom are planning a 2-day event around social justice and politics in the public square. On Friday, May 9th, synagogue congregants plan to hear Koreena Malone relate her story about community organizing a brand-new tenants' association to better negotiate with a developer threatening to abolish her affordable housing in South Austin. On Saturday, people will gather to learn more about the City of Austin's 10:1 redistricting and what that will mean for city politics and the capacity for families to advocate on their own behalf.