Workers Defense Project Demands Tech Company Provide Fair Compensation, Treatment for Austin Workers

As the state offers yet another tax incentive to woo yet another tech company to Austin, Workers Defense Project is stepping in to ensure that workers building the physical shell for HID Global are treated and compensated fairly.

In light of rampant wage theft in Texas and the 2009 study that found every two and a half days a construction worker dies in Texas, Workers Defense is stepping up its efforts to protect workers on construction sites through the Premier Community Builders program.

Workers Defense Project is demanding that Austin City Council add three conditions to their contract with HID Global before approving the building of their complex in north Austin: the presence of a safety monitor on site once per pay period; a wage floor of $12 per hour; and a commitment to hiring disadvantaged Austin residents with construction certifications for 15 percent of the jobs. The city council is set to vote on the proposal when it takes up the $2.8 million incentive package on Sept. 27.

Workers Defense seeks similar conditions for all major construction projects in Austin, particularly ones where the city or state is offering incentives. It recently succeeded in getting the city to require Trammell Crow Co., the company building a mix-use development downtown, to hire 20 percent of workers from construction certification programs that train disadvantaged residents and pay them $16 per hour. Trammell Crow also agreed to safety monitoring by a Workers Defense representative.

In March, the organization secured a $12 per hour wage floor as well as safety monitoring for the 38-acre Apple campus to be built in northwest Austin. Gregorio Casar, business liaison for Workers Defense Project, says they are still talking to Apple about ensuring a percentage of the workers come out of construction certification programs that offer training to disadvantaged residents.

“We campaigned with City Hall to say, ‘If we’re going to invest $9 million in Apple, then we want to see an investment back into working-class people,’” Casar says, referring to the $8.6 million incentive Austin gave Apple in addition to the $21 million from the state. … FULL STORY