In a small celebration at the Workers Defense Project office on Tuesday, the labor advocacy group presented awards—wooden lightboxes with small hammers inside—to Austin and Travis County officials who have helped institute a living wage floor for certain workers.
After years of advocating fair compensation, labor leaders saw a victory last month when the Travis County Commissioner’s Court approved a requirement that all companies receiving county tax incentives pay workers at least $11 per hour—$3.75 more than the federal minimum wage. A special subcommittee of the Austin City Council made a similar recommendation last month. Members who voted for the wage floor were honored at Tuesday’s ceremony.
Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt was the first to receive an award—handcrafted by Workers Defense employees and members—for leading Travis County’s implementation of the wage floor. Next were Austin City Council members Kathie Tovo, Laura Morrison and Mike Martinez.
Labor leaders, including Workers Defense and Austin Interfaith, have been trying to get a living wage floor passed in Austin for years. Progress had been slow as critics argued that requiring companies to pay workers more would stifle economic growth.