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Austin Considering Hourly Wage Boost to Avoid 'Corporate Entitlement Program'

Following Travis County, Texas’ passage of an ordinance requiring any company moving to the county and receiving a tax break to pay their workers a minimum of $11, the City of Austin is weighing a similar deal. This would raise wages for construction workers in Austin who currently have a prevailing wage of $7.50 per hour and marks a possible change in Texas construction policy where workers are generally subject to incredibly low wages.

Organizer Greg Casar told the Austin Statesman, “Really, what this means is construction workers are starting to have a say in their working conditions and their pay.”

For the ever-expanding Austin region this type of ordinance could help those who are building Texas. The City Council is dealing out tax incentives to employers so many feel it would be prudent to ensure that construction workers are getting a “living wage” at the same time.

Austin Chamber of Commerce Vice President Dave Porter said of the recent incentive deals involving the city and county, only the $8.6 million agreement with Apple would have met the $11 per hour provision for construction workers. The company agreed to pay $12 per hour for work on its new North Austin campus.

The $11 per hour minimum is only one aspect of the reform effort. According to the Statesman, "Council Member Mike Martinez, who had presided over informal talks among the various sides, said he is supporting the $11 requirement and is asking the city staff to find ways to alleviate the strain on subcontractors. He suggested a requirement that subcontractors be paid promptly, as well suggesting the city establish some sort of 'collateral fund.' Martinez also proposed the council leave some leeway to deviate from the wage requirement when companies make a compelling case for an exception."

County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt also argued that companies receiving tax incentives should be expected to fairly pay the regions workers. “If we don’t hold these companies to a higher bar and a higher standard…then I fear we will have created a corporate entitlement program," she said.

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