Workers’ Group Urges Reform of Austin’s Incentive-Giving System

In recent years, Austin has become a generous incentive-giver to corporations – but not all companies keep up their end of the deal. On Wednesday the labor advocacy group Workers Defense Project released documents it says prove that an Indiana-based hotel developer violated a $3.8 million incentive deal with the city by failing to pay workers a prevailing wage during construction of a 34-story Marriott hotel in downtown Austin.

In 2009 the city gave White Lodging $3.8 million in tax incentives. In early fall of 2012, the Electrical Workers Union tipped off the city about White Lodging’s noncompliance. Workers Defense, which represents workers in wage theft cases, also got involved.

During a press conference Wednesday, across from the Marriott construction site, Workers Defense highlighted an email in which one of the hotel’s two general contractors, Hardin Construction, tells a subcontractor “…there is no prevailing wage scale for this project.” The organization released the email along with the city’s June 2009 agreement, which grants White Lodging the incentives, but stipulates that the company must pay a prevailing wage to claim the waivers.

Workers Defense also released an affidavit signed by a carpenter who said he was paid $12 per hour instead of the prevailing wage of $13.25 per hour at the work site.

The organization said the time is ripe for reforming the city’s incentive-giving system. Labor advocates don’t just want the Marriott to make good, they also want the city to write stricter enforcement policies and consequences into its active and future contracts with companies receiving any public money or waivers. … FULL STORY

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