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In a small celebration at the Workers Defense Project office on Tuesday, the labor advocacy group presented awards—wooden lightboxes with small hammers inside—to Austin and Travis County officials who have helped institute a living wage floor for certain workers.
After years of advocating fair compensation, labor leaders saw a victory last month when the Travis County Commissioner’s Court approved a requirement that all companies receiving county tax incentives pay workers at least $11 per hour—$3.75 more than the federal minimum wage. A special subcommittee of the Austin City Council made a similar recommendation last month. Members who voted for the wage floor were honored at Tuesday’s ceremony.
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In early October, I met a group of environmental activists who were camping in trees 80 feet above the ground near Winnsboro, hoping to prevent the Keystone XL pipeline’s construction in East Texas. Keystone XL would bring oil from the tar sands of Canada to refineries in Texas and, in the protestors’ view, unleash massive environmental destruction. Local landowners have joined in protesting against TransCanada, the corporation building the pipeline. TransCanada has angered landowners by seizing land in the pipeline’s path.
Two months later, the battle over Keystone XL rages on. Construction began on the southern portion of the pipeline in August, drawing a fresh round of protests. But U.S. State Department approval is needed to complete construction across the international border.