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Travis Dems target Capital Metro with labor resolution

Monday, March 21, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

The Travis County Democratic Party has thrown its weight behind the effort to provide rigorous protections for construction workers hired to build a massive infill project on land owned by the Capital Metro Transportation Authority.

At the party’s annual convention on Saturday, delegates approved a resolution calling on all elected officials to insist that all development projects, both public and private, adhere to the Workers Defense Project’s Better Builder standards. The resolution also specifically urges the Cap Metro board to require its partner in the Plaza Saltillo project to adopt the standards.

As spelled out in the resolution, the standards would provide a minimum wage of $13.03 an hour, Occupational Safety and Health Administration-certified training for workers and managers, worker’s compensation insurance and independent on-site monitoring by a firm approved by WDP.

“The proposed Plaza Saltillo Development is proof that we can build affordable housing and promote mass transit while preserving historic structures and public park space. This is something our community can be proud of,” TCDP Communication Director Joe Deshotel said in an email to the Austin Monitor on Sunday. “Our resolution in support of the ‘Better Builder’ standards for this project on public land is to ensure that our values are upheld during the construction phase as well as the final product.”

On Monday, Cap Metro’s board will vote on a master agreement with Endeavor Real Estate Group, the firm selected to redevelop 10 acres of empty field that straddle the MetroRail rail line just east of downtown Austin. A draft of that agreement presented at a work session on Thursday showed terms that diverged from the Better Builder standards, including a lower minimum wage of $11 an hour.

City Council members Delia Garza and Ann Kitchen – both of whom sit on Cap Metro’s board – voiced their support for providing stronger protections for construction workers.

Fellow board member Terry Mitchell, however, warned against piling expensive provisions onto a project that will ultimately provide approximately 800 residential units in the heart of the city.

“Sooner or later, there is a point where the rents start going up,” Mitchell said on Thursday.

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