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
"The Austin City Council has adopted its budget for the next fiscal year. For the first time in more than a decade, the council lowered Austin’s tax rate, [putting] the budget for next fiscal year just under $800 million. It is money that will bolster five initiatives Reverend Sandy Jones and Austin Interfaith advocated for. Jones is especially grateful for an additional $350,000 that will restart after-school programs... They're programs that were slashed during the recession and are just now being restored. "They do listen, and they do trust us with the ideas that we bring to them," Jones said. "It showed that they care about our youth. They care about the instruction of the youth in our community."Austin City Council Adopts New Budget, Austin YNN Austin Interfaith Recognizes Council For Investing in All Priorities, Austin Interfaith
"Central Health is building a 70,000-square foot facility called the Southeast Health and Wellness Center. Slated to open in fall 2014, the center will cost Travis County taxpayers about $8 million. It will have exercise classes and nutrition counseling, aimed at combating some of the area’s biggest health challenges. But one of its strongest critics is Ofelia Zapata..."
[Photo Credit: Felipa Rodriguez for KUT News]
Public Calls for Health Organization To Be More Open, Austin American Statesman (08/07/13)
"Interviews with current and former public officials, real estate experts and citizen activists suggest that Austin has simply lacked the political will to do things differently. “We have very laudable standards on the environment and are willing to go to bat, even to war on those issues,” said Kurt Cadena-Mitchell, a leader with Austin Interfaith, which supports some form of rental registration. “To go to war for the poor, that type of will is not embedded here....”
Why 'Progressive' Austin Failed to Address Substandard Rental Housing, Austin American Statesman
Churches Forgo the Hammer on Housing, USA Today
"The switch at Travis Heights has been in the making for nearly three years. Austin Interfaith, a coalition of schools, churches and unions, and district labor group Education Austin ...reached out to 100 campuses before they found a partner in Travis Heights willing to become a charter. Their volunteers then went door-to-door, garnering support and hosting school meetings to find out what parents and teachers wanted in a school. They reached 90 percent of the school’s households and got 99 percent support from parents and 97 percent support from staff...."
[Photo Credit: Ralph Barrera, Austin American Statesman]
Switch to Charter Means More Innovation at Travis Heights, Austin American Statesman
“Texas officials have declined to establish a state-based health insurance marketplace, a major provision of the federal Affordable Care Act. So private organizations are working to educate Texans about coverage options through the federal health insurance exchange, which opens on Oct. 1….The [USHHS] department will also finance at least two “navigators” — organizations intended to guide people through the exchange — per state.
But Jacob Cortes, the lead organizer of the group Austin Interfaith, said that might not be enough. ‘The private sector would have to step up,’ he said.”
Promoting Health Insurance, With No Help From State, New York Times
“Representatives from Austin Interfaith and the local business community founded Capital IDEA in 1998, and Steven Jackobs has been heading the organization ever since. Under his direction, the group has helped support, train and find careers for hundreds of Central Texas workers and their families. Capital IDEA – the IDEA stands for Investing in Development and Employment of Adults – works closely with unemployed or underemployed workers to identify a viable and fruitful career path. It’s a rigorous process that’s designed to ensure that workers are committed to the training and completing it….”
Capital IDEA Leads Clients to Career Path, 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
In the face of opposition from prominent Texas Republicans and Gov. Rick Perry, an increasing number of local government officials are urging legislators to expand Medicaid and obtain a federal funding windfall....Last week, the Travis County Commissioners Court tweaked a Feb. 19 resolution calling for a Medicaid expansion to satisfy its lone Republican member. That bipartisan support was “absolutely critical,” said Oralia Garza Cortes, a leader with Austin Interfaith, an advocacy group. Sister organizations in Dallas and Bexar counties helped pass similar resolutions.
On Tuesday, a group of Medicaid recipients and uninsured Texans is planning to rally at the Capitol in support of expanding the program."
Local Officials Lobby GOP Leaders to Rethink Medicaid Expansion, Austin American Statesman
“This is an opportunity to create good jobs for our families,” said Kurt Cadena-Mitchell, with Austin Interfaith, a coalition of churches, schools and local governments that is an advocate for jobs paying a living wage, among other issues....
The new jobs are believed to be part of the company’s plans to hire more technical workers and engineers to support its expanding business. The average annual wage for the new jobs is $65,000, and the lowest-paid 10 percent will make about $40,000, according to the county."
Travis Commissioners Discuss Incentives for National Instruments, Austin American Statesman