Top 10 Labor Stories
Treat your workers right
1) A Fair Chance Austin became the first city in the South to require that private employers delay asking about a job applicant's criminal history until they make a conditional job offer. Sponsored by Greg Casar, the Fair Chance Hiring resolution represented a victory for those with criminal records who have seen discrimination in the workplace.
2) Closing the Living Wage Loophole Council raised the minimum wage for city employees from $11.39 to $13.03/hour in 2015, but employees of subcontractors on city-funded projects saw no increase. The Council corrected itself with the Fair Chance ordinance in March.
3) Fight for $15 This national movement champions a minimum wage of $15/hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. Locally, activists protested working conditions at the Popeyes Chicken on East Riverside Drive and sexual harassment policies at McDonald's, and went on a mass strike during November's National Day of Action.
4) Obama Protects Workers ... The U.S. Department of Labor established a rule designed to widen overtime pay to those making under $47,476 – more than double the previous threshold of $23,660. The new standard was expected to impact 4.2 million American workers, including 370,000 Texans.
5) ... Before Texas Destroys Protections Leave it to Texas to erode federal victories. Attorney General Ken Paxton and a 20-state coalition filed suit against the new FSLA rule, claiming employee wage protections "hurt" American workers. Texas Judge Amos Mazzant temporarily struck the rule down just before it was to take effect Dec. 1.
6) Austin Restaurants in Violation This fall, the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division discovered federal labor law violations at 95% of Austin restaurants it investigated between Oct. 2015 and June 2016. Restaurants forced employees to work only for tips, made illegal deductions, and violated child labor rules. The DOL helped return more than $330,000 in back wages to 500 Austin workers.
7) Resolving to Fix Gender Inequity After numerous reports of gender discrimination at City Hall, Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo passed a resolution this March that seeks to reform the systemic problems in the city's employee complaint process for gender inequality and harassment.
8) SCOTUS Splits Immigration A U.S. Supreme Court 4-4 vote in United States v. Texas blocked an opportunity to shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants – including 700,000 Texans – from deportation, and let them secure work permits through the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program.
9) Paxton Intervenes The AG butted into a lawsuit filed by two conservative groups against Austin's labor deal with the firefighters' union when he claimed the agreement – which let firefighters get paid for conducting association business – violated anti-gift rules in the Texas Constitution. Bob Nicks, president of the Austin Firefighters Association, said the lawsuit doesn't have merit and that the deal between the AFA and city is similar to those reached with EMS and police.
10) Unemployment Drops While Texas saw an increase in jobs in the latest Texas Workforce Commission report, labor force estimates show unemployment dipped from 3.5% in September to 3.2% in October in the Austin-Round Rock area.