Workers’ Defense Project (WDP) held a press conference this morning to call on CapMetro to implement “Better Builder” standards on the new proposed Plaza Saltillo development. The CapMetro board will take a vote on the proposal on March 21st.
WDP is asking that the construction of the development, which will be on city owned property, include a living wage for construction workers as well as: OSHA-10 training, workers’ compensation (for those injured on the job), local hiring practices and independent site monitoring to ensure compliance. The project is slated to pay $11.85 an hour, WDP is asking for the City of Austin standard of $13.03 an hour.
The group is supported by at least two CapMetro board members, City Councilmembers Ann Kitchen and Delia Garza who were both present. Councilmember Pio Renteria, who represents the East Austin district that includes Plaza Saltillo, also spoke in support of the higher standards.
Supporters of the project as it stands suggest that the final product will include many community benefits, but Renteria said, “in 2016 it isn’t just about the final product…We need to make sure that the way we get there is something we can be proud of.”
Worker misclassification, wage theft and death of construction workers has plagued Texas’ construction industry which is by far the most deadly in the nation (166 deaths last year alone). We are the only state that does not require workers’ compensation. WDP executive director Jose Garza said, “These are not a request for charity or handouts, these are the fundamental building blocks of good, safe, jobs. The people who build our city deserve to live here and work here with dignity.”
An Austin Chronicle story in November of last year revealed that a company of one of the developers has been accused of withholding overtime pay and essentially avoiding accountability of injured workers through sub contracting.
Speaking from a podium, CM Garza told the media that paying a living wage to local workers was an important to our community and that “we must hold public projects to a hire standard.” She said she looks forward to working with stakeholders and that “I believe we can find a solution that both protects workers, and serves the public and agency as well.”