August 31, 2018
See the full statement and signatories here
TEXAS — Today, city councilmembers, county commissioners, and school board trustees across the state of Texas announced their joint efforts to raise the wage floor to $15 an hour for municipal employees and those working under contracts with localities. Citing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s notion of budgets as “moral documents,” these local elected officials — all members of Local Progress Texas — declared their intention to achieve living wages for public and contract employees via their local government budgets.
“Leaders of the State of Texas may want to keep people at the poverty wage of $7.25 per hour, but in our hometowns, we’re not willing to wait as our residents have to choose between putting food on the table and keeping the lights on,” said Council Member Gregorio Casar of Austin. “Starting today, we chart a pathway to a $15 minimum wage for everyone in the State of Texas.”
Nationwide, more than 100 cities or other local governments have passed living wage policies to set a minimum wage above the federal or state minimum for those employed by the local government or firms contracted by the locality. Here in Texas, Dallas passed a living wage ordinance in 2015 to peg the minimum wage to MIT’s living wage calculator. Austin and Bexar County, which includes the city of San Antonio, will all achieve a minimum wage of $15 for public employees in 2019.
“We are fighting for $15, but we are pushing for $13.50 as a start to bring our families to an equitable playing field so all of our workers can be productive members in society,” said Mayor Pro Tempore Tartisha Hill of Balch Springs. “This is not only an economic justice issue but a criminal justice issue. When you give people the freedom to thrive, which includes the ability to earn livable wages, you make room for the creation of safe and more prospering communities.”
The statement signatories, representing more than 11 jurisdictions throughout the state, expressed their intention to seek minimum wage increases for public and contract employees in the budget process this year or to kickstart the conversation for the following budget cycle. A report launched today by Oxfam America ranks Texas as #44 in the nation on wages.
“Having a few years of experience with a more modest wage floor, I have become convinced that we must fight for $15,” said Councilmember Philip Kingston of the Dallas City Council. “Lower wages keep children from receiving health care and they keep working people from building wealth. And the thing that elected leaders should understand is how popular the Fight for $15 is.”
In El Paso County, Commissioner David Stout and his colleagues have raised the minimum wage for county employees to $12 per hour via the county budget, as well as raising floor wages at the County Hospital District and Emergence Health Network. “This year we are continuing to invest in our people, making significant investments in economic development and taking care of our community’s most vulnerable,” said Commissioner Stout. “We are doing this while keeping our goals of fiscal responsibility and providing outstanding services to our community.”