Living Wages

After IAF affiliates designed and passed the nation’s first living wage bill in Baltimore in 1994, West / Southwest IAF organizations soon organized for living wage ordinances of their own.

In 1998, Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) / Metro Alliance leaders succeeded in persuading the City of San Antonio to institute a city-wide tax abatement ordinance requiring companies that benefit from municipal tax incentives to pay a living wage, with benefits.  COPS / Metro leaders later fought the building of a hotel in the City that refused to meet the newly instituted living wage standard, effectively shutting the project down.

In 2012, they successfully defended that ordinance against a proposal from Maruchan, helping save their city $8 Million in unnecessary subsidies.  Two years later they launched a living wage campaign to raise the wage standard of workers in Bexar County.

In 1998, Pima County Interfaith Council (PCIC) persuaded the City of Tucson to pass a living wage standard. In 2001 one hundred religious and community leaders piled into a Board of Supervisors’ hearing to pass a similar Living Wage Ordinance for businesses receiving Pima County contracts.

By 2000, MIT economist Paul Osterman estimated that the work of Valley Interfaith in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas raised wages in the region by $9.3 Million per year.  Within ten more years, Valley Interfaith furthermore leveraged commitments from Cameron County, the City of Brownsville and the Texas Southernmost Community College to raise the starting wages of their employees (including contracted) by over $1 per hour.

In 2014, Austin Interfaith succeeded in persuading the Austin Independent School District to adopt federal Davis-Bacon wage standards for workers contracted for school construction.  The previous year, they succeeded in getting the City of Austin to pass a historic living wage ordinance requiring that any corporation receiving future taxpayer incentives pay the City established living wage of $11 per hour or prevailing wage, whichever is higher.

In Baltimore, Tucson and cities across Texas, stories about working adults struggling to raise families with wages that are too low to live on were shared in church basements and at food pantries, after school and on work sites. IAF organizations created the space for people to transform their private pain into innovative solutions benefiting not only individual families, but local economies across the nation.


“Report on the Impact of the Valley Interfaith Living Wage Campaign,” MIT (2000)


June 25, 2014

COPS / Metro Launches Living Wage Fight in Bexar

COPS/Metro Alliance leaders & allies kicked off their Living Wage Campaign on Tuesday morning at the Bexar County Commissioners Court, asking elected officials to raise the county’s minimum wage, currently set at the Federal Poverty Level. In response, Judge Wolff asked the County Manager to meet with a COPS/Metro delegation within …more here.

June 17, 2014

Austin Passes Living Wage Vote for School Construction

Labor caucus leaders of Austin Interfaith leveraged a historic living wage vote from AISD school board members in a close-to-midnight vote approving the use of federal Davis-Bacon wage standards for workers employed on school construction projects.  After months of deliberation and negotiation, labor caucus members of Austin Interfaith…more here.

October 25, 2013

Austin Passes Historic Economic Incentive Wage Ordinance

Leaders celebrated the passage of a historic living wage ordinance they had fought for over the course of five years.  Institutional representatives from congregations, schools and workers associations challenged city council candidates in 2012 to craft an ordinance requiring that jobs emerging from taxpayer incentives pay at least a living wage or more here….

August 9, 2013

Austin Interfaith & Allies Defend White Lodging Workers

Lead Organizer: Jacob Cortes

200 supporters of construction workers, including Catholic Bishop Joe Vasquez of the Austin Diocese and Workers Defense Project, rallied on the steps of City Hall demanding that workers receive the pay promised to them by developers of White Lodging, in exchange for $3.8 million in fee waivers more here…

March 9, 2013

NOVA Transforms Bad Jobs Into Better Jobs in Louisiana

When approached by a call center seeking to train workers for high turnover jobs paying $8 / hour, NOVA challenged the employer to invest in worker development for higher paying work.  The call center responded and now NOVA trainees start at $10 / hour and move to $12.50 / hour within three months, including benefits; call center attrition has dropped.  NOVA is becoming a new kind of hiring hall, offering training for dignified work that pays fair wages and offers benefits.

Mississippi Clergy Stand With Nissan Workers

Over the last 30 years transnational auto manufacturers have placed plants all over the world; in the US most of the new plants have landed in the South.

In most cases, these jobs are high-wage union jobs.  Automakers in Mississippi, in contrast, regularly violate international labor standards through wholesale workplace intimidation.  While some wages might be relatively high, vast numbers of workers are repeatedly employed as temps (at less than half the hourly rate of full-time workers) and individual workers are subjected to individual and small group anti-union “education” meetings organized by their employers.  In one plant, for example, more here…

March 8, 2013

Austin Interfaith Applauds National Instruments

“National Instruments Corp. won approval Thursday for $1.7 million in city of Austin incentives to support the company’s proposed expansion of 1,000 Austin jobs over the next 10 years….The deal was praised by representatives of Austin Interfaithbecause the company agreed to a floor wage of $11 an hour for all jobs, including construction jobs tied to the project. The company also agreed to work with contractors to ensure that construction workers on the project will be covered by worker’s compensation insurance.”  More here

August 8, 2012

TMO Unites Clergy Behind Houston Janitors for Wages

TMO clergy and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo held a press conference exhorting contractors to give Houston SEIU janitors a raise.  The increase would amount to $10 dollars an hour in the third year, more here…

[Photo Credit: Erik Kane, Texas Tribune]

July 20, 2012

COPS / Metro Applauds Maruchan’s Decision to Withdraw Application for Tax Incentives

Fr. Gamez advocates for higher wages for noodle factory workers.  Lead Organizer: Jorge Montiel.COPS/Metro Alliance leaders applauded Maruchan’s decision to withdraw their application for tax incentives and welcomed the company to Bexar County. “We reiterate our support for economic development and job creation,” said Fr. Steven Gamez, pastor of St. Philip of Jesus Catholic Church.  More here…

October 29, 2011

TMO Fights Wage Theft as Labor and Immigration Strategy

Revs. Kevin Collins Wars vs. Wage Theft in Houston with TMO.  Senior Organizer: Jacob CortesBuilding on an Austin victory criminalizing wage theft statewide, TMO institutions took the fight against wage theft to the pews.  “For The Metropolitan Organization, the wage theft law is not just about employees’ rights; it is a way to carry out immigration reform in the current political more here…