AUSTIN -- The City Council has voted in favor of new conditions for businesses receiving tax incentives to come to Austin. They must now pay construction workers at least $11 an hour.
There was a long wait just to get inside the Austin City Council meeting Thursday night. A total of 60 people signed up to speak either for or against better wages for construction workers in Austin. The entire debate was expected to take several hours.
The protest was large enough to wrap around Austin City Hall. Hundreds of construction workers from near and far came to support fair wages for those who build our city.
"Poverty in construction in Austin is very prevalent, and this policy would help stop that poverty; bring people up out of poor working conditions," said Reno Hammond of Labors International Union of North America.
Once inside council chambers it was standing room only. The issue at the center of the debate was a proposal to require new businesses give construction workers at least $11 an hour and domestic partner benefits - if that business gets tax incentives from the city.
Opponents say this proposal is well-intentioned but will cause construction costs to go up by 20 percent.
"We believe that anything that deters companies from coming to Austin, then we all lose," said David Ford. "We don't get to build the buildings, companies don't get to come to Austin; they go elsewhere."
Travis County commissioners will tackle the fair wages issue next week. The Austin City Council voted for the proposal just after midnight.