Rev. Paul Skeith from SoCo Episcopal Community and Central Texas Interfaith (CTI) testified at the Travis County Commissioners Court to advocate that any private company receiving public tax subsidies from the county pay living wages, benefits, a career track, and strategy to hire locally. The Court subsequently adopted these and other worker safety measures as part of a package advocated by CTI congregations and member institutions including Workers Defense Project, LIUNA, and Central Texas Building Trades.
On Tuesday the Travis County Commissioners Court held a discussion on “Project Silicon Silver,” widely speculated to be the alias for chipmaking giant Samsung’s development contract. The discussion centered around acceptance of the preliminary application, along with a corresponding $150,000 fee paid out to the county by the developer.
The county is considering providing financial benefits in exchange for Samsung’s adherence to worker protection, wage, compensation, OSHA requirements and more.
Several citizen callers also stressed the need for county stipulations, including a living wage indexed to cost of living, local employee minimums and health insurance benefits for employees.
Father Paul Skeith of SoCo Episcopal Community advocated for all of the above issues, in addition to the opportunity for employees to rise within the company.
Jessica Wolff with Workers Defense Project highlighted the strengths of the development standards, citing the local hiring requirement, construction training requirement and anti-retaliation provisions, and called for the standards set in this policy to become the county norm.
”We recognize this is a great first step and there’s still more work to be done,” Wolff said.
"Talarico also might have gotten a boost from efforts from Central Texas Interfaith, a network of churches, synagogues and other religious organizations that held its own non-partisan get-out-the-vote campaign.
The group targeted voting precincts with historically low voter turnout and church presence with a phone campaign aimed at individuals the organization identified as low propensity voters. By the end of early voting, they saw marked increases in 16 of the 17 precincts they targeted across the Austin area. Those included Williamson County precincts in Talarico’s district as well as State Rep. John Bucy III’s district. Bucy, D-Austin, also won re-election Tuesday.
Rev. Miles R. Brandon II, of St. Julian of Norwich Episcopal Church in Round Rock, said many of the people they contacted found it refreshing that they were being asked only to vote and weren’t being sold a particular candidate or political party. “We don’t talk to people about candidates, but we talk to them about issues,” Brandon said. “I think, we don’t get hung up as much because we don’t represent a party or candidate.”
Of the nearly 18,000 people contacted, about 9,500 of them ended up casting a vote by the end of early voting, according to Central Texas Interfaith. Several candidates on the ballot who worked with the network of congregations, including Talarico, Bucy and State Rep. Vikki Goodwin, won their respective races."
Suburban Swing:Once Reliably Red, Williamson Voters Back Biden, Cornyn, American-Statesman [pdf]
Central TX Interfaith Leverages $10 Million from County in Added Housing Support, Calls on City of Austin to Invest $40M in Rental Relief
On the heels of leveraging $10 Million in housing assistance from Travis County one day prior, Central Texas Interfaith leaders called on the City of Austin to provide at least $40 Milllion in rental assistance for economically distressed families in the COVID-19 crisis.
Leaders noted that while at present, the City of Austin invests $1.2 million for rental assistance, and $7 million overall toward housing assistance, over 50% of low income Austin residents are considered “cost-burdened” (ie. pay over 30% of their income toward housing costs) and 93% of Very Low Income Austin residents are “distressed renters”.
Parish leaders from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic in East Austin argue that “even though evictions have been halted, rent and late fees are piling up, and many residents are receiving warnings from landlords to pay up. Austin did well by creating the RISE fund and some rental assistance programs, but we can, and must do more.”
Group to Austin Leaders: Give $40 Million Cut From Coronavirus Funds to Renters, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Austin Allocating Far Less in Rental Assistance During COVID-19 Crisis Compared to Other Texas Cities, KVUE (Pre-conference) [video] [pdf]
Travis County Approves $10M for Direct Rental and Mortgage Assistance, Austin Monitor [pdf]
Housing Committee Talks Scaling Rental Assistance Program, Austin Monitor [pdf]
Rev. John Elford, senior pastor at University United Methodist, and David Guarino, of All Saints Episcopal, point out the effects of state action on homelessness in Austin.
This Thanksgiving, most of us will sit down with our loved ones for a feast in a cozy home. Outside, hundreds of our neighbors experiencing homelessness in Austin will be scrambling for a place to escape from the elements, both literal and political.
We of Austin’s faith community have frequent contact with our unsheltered neighbors, and they have taught us a great deal. They have shown that too many of us are just one or two paychecks and a run of bad luck away from the same fate. Our homeless neighbors have also taught us that we have a shared humanity that transcends circumstances.
Austin is at a critical moment in our fight to end homelessness. Recent attempts to revise the city’s old ordinances, which effectively criminalized everyday activities, brought people experiencing homelessness out of the shadows. It was hard to miss that our neighbors were suffering.
The response of the governor was to order the dismantling of encampments under state highways and provide a vacant lot off U.S. 183 as an alternative campground, far from the city’s social service and transportation hubs. As a result, many of our unhoused neighbors have been forced back to the woods, out of sight....
[Photo Credit: Jay Janner, Austin American Statesman]
Commentary: This Holiday, Let's Focus on Hope for Homeless, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Building on a successful 32-year history of organizing, Austin Interfaith officially renamed and re-founded itself as Central Texas Interfaith (CTI) with over 320 leaders from Bastrop, Comal, Hays, Travis, McLennan (Waco) and Williamson counties.
Emerging leaders told impactful stories that informed a revised agenda of issues, and delegates from a 10-county region committed to a broadened identity, fundraising goals, and GOTV strategy to promote the affirmed agenda.
Last week, the New York Times highlighted a workforce training program in San Antonio called Project QUEST that helps hundreds of people every year move out of poverty and into sustainable employment. A recent analysis of the program was particularly encouraging. Nine years after entering training, participants are still experiencing high rates of employment and earning over $5,000 more annually than a similar group that didn’t participate in the program. Such outcomes are rare in workforce development programs.
The Times article came out just as AEI’s Vocation, Career, and Work research team began discussions with Capital IDEA in Austin, Texas, an organization that uses a model similar to Project QUEST. Capital IDEA has been working with low-income families in Austin for more than 20 years to move workers from low-wage to middle-skill jobs. In 2018, program graduates earned an average starting wage of $22 per hour. A previous analysis of the program has found sustained wage gains at least four years after program completion.
[Photo Credit: RealClear Policy]
In Austin, a Public/Private Partnership for Workforce Success, RealClear Policy
In a move to boost voter turnout among neglected communities, Texas IAF organizations reached into suburbs surrounding Texas’ largest cities to assemble by the thousands in political, nonpartisan assemblies to help leaders wrest commitments from candidates for state and federal office. Having witnessed candidate responses to locally-developed agendas, which span from local control to Texas school finance and federal immigration reform, leaders are now mobilizing their neighbors to Get Out The Vote.
In North Dallas, for example, two thousand DAI leaders -- many from Carrollton and Farmers Branch -- invited candidates for House Districts 114, 115, 105 and 107, and Congressional District 32, to commit to investing public funds in local labor market intermediaries, crafting immigration reform that would end the separation of children from their parents at the border (and include protections for DACA youth), cracking down on predatory lending, and repealing Senate Bill 4. Hundreds more from Austin and Hayes County challenged candidates for US Congressional Districts 25 and 21, and State House Districts 47, 45 and 136 to publicly pledge support for similar priorities, including the defense of local control over municipal housing and labor policy. In Helotes, just outside of San Antonio, COPS / Metro leaders carted out boxes with thousands of postcard pledges by voters to participate in the election of US Representative for Congressional District 23, which extends to the outskirts of El Paso, and State Representative for House Districts 117 and 118. In Houston, TMO organized assemblies with candidates for US Congressional District 7 and 29; House Districts 144, 133, and 135; and Senate District 17.
Already, unpaid armies of organizational leaders have knocked on thousands of doors and called thousands more to remind supporters and voters to participate in the midterm elections. Last weekend, for example, Austin Interfaith leaders knocked on doors in three counties, four legislative districts and 2 congressional districts. This weekend, all Texas IAF organizations are making a final push -- from the pews, inside health clinics and in long-neglected neighborhoods -- to ensure the highest turnout possible in support of their agenda.
Leaders understand that targeted voter engagement efforts following accountability assemblies help advance their agenda. This year alone, local Texas IAF organizations succeeded in raising municipal wage floors in San Antonio and Austin to $15 per hour; leveraging the support of Chief of Police Art Acevedo to make Houston the first city in Texas to support a gun safety strategy; and preventing unnecessary deportations through widespread adoption of identification cards generated by parishes within the Catholic Diocese of Dallas.
Candidates Share Platform at Assembly, Austin American Statesman
Why Dallas Republicans Skipped an Interfaith Forum, Rewire.News
DAI Accountability Forum [Video]
Four years after launching living wage campaigns in their respective cities, COPS/Metro and Austin Interfaith leaders celebrated hard won hikes in the lowest wages paid to municipal workers in both San Antonio and Austin. This week, both cities become the first in Texas to set a $15/hour wage floor for city workers. In Austin, this new standard additionally applies to contracted workers, part-time and temporary workers AND to employees of private businesses receiving economic incentives (more in next section).
Leaders also leverage increased city investments in long-term workforce development ($2.4 Million for Capital IDEA and $2.2 Million for Project QUEST) plus affordable housing (San Antonio). Bexar County announced that they, too, would pay their lowest earning employees at least $15/hour. Austin leaders successfully intervened for programs under threat of budget cuts, including PrimeTime after-school programming and parent support specialists in the Austin Independent School District.
Press Statement, COPS/Metro Alliance
Press Statement, Austin Interfaith
San Antonio Ranked Among Nation's Highest-Poverty Cities, Rivard Report
City of San Antonio boosts municipal wages (2015)
City of Austin passes 'Living Budget' and closes labor loophole (2015)
On the eve of Labor Day weekend, Austin Interfaith leaders celebrated the protection of living wages for all jobs subsidized by City of Austin taxpayers and applauded the Austin City Council for adopting a $15 an hour living wage floor requirement as a key feature of its expanded Economic Development Incentive Program.
Says David Guarino of All Saints Episcopal Church, “Austin Interfaith recognizes Mayor Steve Adler, City Manager Spencer Cronk and the members of the City Council for hearing and acting on our concerns.”
“Tonight, the Austin City Council has set a national standard for urban economic incentive programs by recognizing that people deserve the dignity of a living wage from employers who receive economic incentives,” Guarino.
Austin Interfaith has worked years to encourage the city to implement living wage standards for city-subsidized companies.
Support Your Local and Small Businesses, Austin Chronicle
Council Considers Which Strings to Attach to Corporate Incentives, Austin Monitor [pdf]
"....on June 23, five deputies from the Sheriff's office appeared to be stationed at or near the Stoney Point community. People were stopped for speeding and DUI, which is appropriate. But they were also stopped for allegedly failing to use turn indicators, once for allegedly failing to use turn indicators within 500 feet of the intersection; for a broken or burnt out tail light; and for having mud on their license plate. These were very minor traffic infractions. To many, this appeared to be a targeted effort to locate and detain undocumented people. As previously reported, 23 Hispanics were arrested of which 13 were taken and moved into deportation proceedings.
By this action, which appears to have been against immigrants, the Sheriff has not increased people's confidence in law enforcement, which is what we had sought and strived to obtain in our prior dialogue with the Sheriff. This causes us serious concern and raises question of credibility in that dialogue...."
[Photo Credit: Ralph Barrera, Austin American Statesman]
Full Statement Here
'Zero Tolerance' Arrests Put 13 in ICE Custody, 'Had Nothing to Do With Immigration', Texas Sheriff Says, Miami Herald
El Aguacil del Condado Bastrop Rompe el Silencio Sobre el Operativo de Tránsito Donde Fueron Detenidos Varios Inmigrantes Indocumentados, Univision Austin
Bastrop Sheriff: Traffic Stop Had 'Nothing to Do with Immigration', Austin American Statesman
Faith Group Blasts Sheriff for Traffic Crackdown, Deportations, Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Residents Concerned After Traffic Arrests Lead to ICE Detentions, Spectrum News
Del Valle Neighborhood On Edge After Drivers Caught in Traffic Sting Are Turned Over to ICE, KUT 90.5
Líderes Religiosos de Bastrop Cuestionan Detenciones de Inmigrantes en Operativo de Tránsito, Univision
Bastrop Interfaith Leader Speaks Out Against Deportations Stemming from Traffic Operation, KVUE
Bastrop Interfaith Exige Un Fin a la Política de Cero Tolerancia en su Condado, Telemundo
Bastrop County Sheriff Defends Traffic Enforcement Sting, KXAN