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Wednesday, July 6, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

Labor group calls foul on Plaza Saltillo document

As Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Plaza Saltillo development project snakes its way through City Hall, one prominent labor rights group is raising concerns about the transit agency’s partner in the deal.

The Workers Defense Project shared with the Austin Monitor a document created by Endeavor Real Estate Group that touts worker protections that fall short of those the developer agreed to provide back in March.

The document, which the WDP says it obtained from a firm that was solicited by Endeavor to provide independent monitoring of the construction site, claims that workers on the Plaza Saltillo project are guaranteed “a living wage of not less than $11.39 per hour.” In March, Endeavor struck a deal with Capital Metro to provide a base wage of $13.03 per hour.

The sheet also says that the developer will provide the transit agency with the monitor’s compliance reports rather than the monitor itself directly submitting them. This similarly contradicts the March agreement.

Endeavor Principal Jason Thumlert told the Monitor on Tuesday that the document obtained by the WDP is outdated. “We haven’t made any changes to the agreement,” Thumlert said.

Capital Metro corroborated Thumlert, saying through a spokesperson the document was “accidentally distributed by Endeavor, but that is now being corrected.”

Bo Delp of the WDP told the Monitor that the document is “problematic.”

“Imagine how surprised we were when we saw a document with Endeavor’s logo on it saying that, after they had committed to $13.03, they were only going to be asking their contractors to pay construction workers $11.39,” Delp said.

He told the Monitor that his group is still committed to working with Endeavor to find a way to provide workers on the Plaza Saltillo project the full range of the WDP’s Better Builder Program, a suite of protections and benefits that includes the $13.03-per-hour wage, independent on-site monitoring and workers compensation insurance.

“They’re in complete control here, and they have the ability to do the right thing. It’s the moral thing to do, and they just need to do it,” Delp said.

A letter written by WDP Executive Director Jose Garza addressed to Endeavor’s Managing Principal Kirk Rudy and provided by the group to the Monitor indicates that the company is exploring options to provide workers compensation as well as aiming for a local hiring goal. In the letter dated June 9, Garza asked Rudy for a meeting to discuss matters. Both Delp and Thumlert confirmed that the meeting was never set up.

“We called and left a message, and I haven’t heard back from them,” Thumlert told the Monitor on Tuesday.

In the meantime, the Plaza Saltillo proposal is working through the city of Austin’s planning process. The project requires zoning variances due to height restrictions and likely won’t end up in front of City Council until August or September, according to Thumlert.

If Council ends up giving the project the green light, Endeavor will add 800 new residential units to the 10-acre tract of land that straddles Capital Metro’s MetroRail line just east of downtown Austin. The long strip of development will include 110,000 square feet of retail space and a 120-foot-tall office tower. Thumlert estimated that the project will be finished by 2018.

Photo by Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19931064

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Capital Metro: The city’s urban transportation system.

Plaza Saltillo: Capital Metro's 11-acre tract in East Austin is slated to be developed by Endeavor Real Estate Group after a 20-year process.

Workers Defense Project: A nonprofit advocacy group that provides resources to ensure low-income workers fair employment.

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