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Austin ISD school board approves protections for construction workers ahead of bond election

Monday, October 3, 2022 by Becky Fogel, KUT

The Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees has signed off on a resolution to improve labor standards for any construction projects on district property. The board approved the measure at a meeting Thursday.

The trustees passed the measure ahead of the 2022 school bond election in November. If voters approve AISD’s $2.44 billion bond package, the district will have money to build new schools, install security vestibules, revamp sports fields and make other critical infrastructure improvements. Now, entities awarded a bid for a bond project must participate in the Better Builder Program or something similar. That means they’ll have to provide safety training and living wages for workers, as well as independent on-site monitoring.

Ahead of the vote, union members and other advocates voiced their support for the resolution. Among them was Jeremy Hendricks with the Southwest Laborers’ District Council, an affiliate of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. He told trustees that raising labor standards was essential in Texas.

“A worker who builds and retrofits our schools deserves to have a safe job site in what is the most dangerous state in America for workers, unfortunately,” he said. “They also deserve fair wages in a state that has some of the lowest wages in America.”

Thomas Kennedy, with Local 286, the plumbers and pipefitters union, said one of the most important parts of the resolution is that it requires Occupational Safety and Health Administration training.

“On the job we have a safety saying: ‘Go home the same way you came to work,'” Kennedy said. “This resolution will help each one of my brothers do that.”

Following the vote, the Texas Climate Jobs Action Fund praised the AISD board for approving the resolution. Campaigns director Stephanie Corte called it a major win in a news release.

“Thanks to this resolution, which is the strongest set of labor standards for school construction workers in our state, every single worker rebuilding our schools will be paid a living wage and have access to health insurance, safety training, workers compensation, and other important protections,” she said.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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