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Blue-collar workers say it's getting harder to live in Austin

Organizers and labor unions gathered at the Texas Capitol on Labor Day, sharing stories and fighting for change.

AUSTIN, Texas — This Labor Day, Chivas Watson, a warehouse worker, will be working a 12-hour shift and yet barely making ends meet. 

"Getting $11.21 an hour, they expect you to work 60 hours a week,” said Watson.

The City of Austin says a living wage is $20 an hour.

Not only does Watson work his warehouse job, but he also takes on other freelance jobs.

"Having to work independent jobs, independent labor, but we also have picked up private jobs, to help people move from South Austin to North Austin," he told KVUE.

His buddy, Malkiyah Israel, is in a similar boat but works as a private driver. He lives in his car, unable to take care of his basic needs. 

"Because I'm self-employed, I don't get the benefits of being offered a 401(k), health benefits or things like that. I have to come out-of-pocket,” said Israel. 

Workers like Watson and Israel are why organizers and labor unions gathered at the Texas Capitol on Monday,  sharing stories and fighting for change.

"We're fighting for safer work conditions, we're fighting for higher wages, we're fighting for benefits, and most importantly we're fighting for respect and dignity,” said organizer for Restaurant Workers United John Cuvillier.

Low-wage workers make up a big part of the Austin workforce. They're among the lowest paid, but we rely on them every day.

In a city of about 1.2 million workers, there are almost 30,000 transportation and warehouse workers, 100,000 in hotel and food service, and another 111,000 in retail.

That's why organizers say it's important for them to organize and stand up for front-line workers.

"We're honestly just here to celebrate this new wave of organizing, and to connect with other unions, in order to work together," said Culliver.

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