Mayor: Use wage floor as guideline
ated by Visa is expected to average more than $113,000. The question was about the construction jobs needed to refit an existing building at 12301 Research Blvd. that Visa could use for the project.
“In the last couple of days, they (Visa executives) were very thoughtful about it,” Farmer said. “Once Visa said they would accept the $11 as the minimum wage rate, that drained most of the controversy out of the deal.”
Brad Byers, head of real estate facilities for Visa’s America’s region, said his company determined that the construction wage floor would not create a “significant impact” on its project’s construction costs, because it would move into an existing building in Austin.
But Byers noted that Visa would not have offered a wage floor if it had planned a new building for its project, because in that case the $11-an-hour wage “would have been very impactful on the project in terms of the budget.”
Prevailing wage rates for construction jobs vary widely, depending on the job skills involved. Skilled construction jobs including pipe fitters and electricians have prevailing wages that are well above the proposed $11 floor. But unskilled jobs, such as common laborers, can make far less.
According to data from the Texas Workforce Commission, entry-level wages for construction laborers runs slightly less than $9 an hour, while carpenters helpers are paid an entry level wage of $8.39.
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said Friday that he wants to see an $11 wage floor be a guideline set by the city and not a “gateway requirement” for all projects.
Making it a requirement, Leffingwell said, could cause Austin to lose out on economic development projects that could help more lowerskilled workers.
But council member Mike Martinez said the special committee he headed has recom- mended requiring an $11-an-hour wage floor for projects that get economic development incentives, as well as health care benefits and domestic partner benefits for construction workers as well as direct employees.
Under the committee’s recommendation, the city would require the wage floor, but would review projects from companies that wanted an exception.
The Visa agreement, Martinez said, “demonstrates that, in certain cases, Austin’s values can apply and we can create exceptional jobs. Visa has allies here on the ground in Austin because they self-imposed what they didn’t have to do.”
Dave Porter, senior vice president for economic development at the Austin Chamber, said his organization will continue to argue against any required wage floor in the weeks ahead.
“This is going to be an issue going forward,” Porter said. “There is a concern that we may not be competitive in the future (for new expansion projects). There is a lot of conversation going on with the city on this.” egies for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, said the grant “validates what we’ve been saying” about Austin’s tech scene.
“I think it highlights that Austin’s tech prowess can be appreciated across the globe,” she said. “I think that’s a huge plus for Austin.”
Hurley, who moved to Austin in the mid-1990s to work for Apple, credits the city’s collaborative ecosystem for his success.
“Austin’s an amazing collaborative environment,” he said. “I’ve been so blessed with so many different people that have looked at crazy ideas I’ve had and (have been) constructively critical of them. That doesn’t happen everywhere.”