2022 has been a big year for Texas workers. From guaranteeing paid family leave and raising minimum wages for public employees to setting construction standards and supporting workplace organizing, localities across Texas have taken important steps to advance pro-worker policies.
Passing these critical policies would have not been possible without the leadership and support of many Local Progress Texas members, community and labor partners, and of course, working people across Texas. We dig into some of the exciting trends we’re seeing below!
Paid Family Leave
Three Texas localities– Houston, Travis County, and Waco – joined DeSoto, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and others in guaranteeing paid family leave for its employees this year:
In April, Houston unanimously approved up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave for city employees after birth, adoption, or foster placement. This charge was led by Councilmember Abbie Kamin, and supported by Councilmember and LPTX Organizing Committee member Tarsha Jackson.
Travis County commissioners followed suit in May by unanimously approving a policy to implement eight weeks of paid family leave for its employees – including new parents through both childbirth and adoption – who have been employed with the county for six months. LPTX members County Judge Andy Brown, Commissioner Jeff Travilion, and Commissioner Brigid Shea advocated for the passage of this policy. Jeff explained to KUT, Austin’s NPR station, that workers were previously having to use disability leave in place of parental leave: “We should not be addressing these issues through a disability policy, because pregnancy is not a disability.”
As of September, City of Waco employees will be eligible for six weeks of paid parental leave under the proposed budget for 2023. Waco City Council Mayor Pro-Tem and LPTX Organizing Committee member Kelly Palmer voiced her support for this policy back in May after Houston announced their policy, explaining that it would make Waco more welcoming to workers. Kelly told The Waco Tribune-Herald that she was “thrilled” the policy made it into the proposed budget: “For our parents of all genders, for our adoptive parents, foster parents, biological parents, I think it’s such an equity win for us that will help us attract great employees.”
In the last couple of months, three Texas localities – Austin, Travis County, Dallas – along with Austin Community College and the Dallas Fort-Worth Airport, have significantly raised their minimum wages:
In August, Austin City Council approved a $20 hourly living wage as part of the 2022-23 budget. Previously, Austin’s minimum wage was $15 an hour for city employees. Councilmember and LPTX Organizing Committee Co-Chair Vanessa Fuentes led the charge on this effort, introducing an item in June to begin to chart a path to eventually reach $22 per hour for city employees. Upon passage in August, Vanessa tweeted, “This increase will raise wages for thousands of workers, fill vacancies, and provide Austinites with reliable and quality city services across the board!”
Additionally, the Austin Community College (ACC) Board of Trustees unanimously voted to approve a minimum wage bump for their employees from $15.60 to $20 per hour, citing concerns about affordability and employee retention. This effort was led by Stephanie Gharakhanian, Austin Community College Board Trustee and LPTX Organizing Committee member. Stephanie tweeted her support in response, saying that this is “great news for county employees!”
Travis County also upped their minimum wage for employees from $15 to $20 an hour in August, led by LPTX Member and County Judge Andy Brown. The county also approved a five percent increase for all workers to account for rising cost of living and to help ensure county workers can afford to live where they work.
Dallas’ budget also includes a minimum wage increase from $15.50 to $18 per hour to account for rising cost of living. This effort was led by LPTX Organizing Committee Co-Chair Councilmember Adam Bazaldua and Deputy Mayor Pro Tem and LPTX member Omar Narvaez. Adam and Omar also spearheaded a wage increase for hourly employees at Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport from $15 to $18 by summer of 2023. The DFW Airport Board of Directors creates their annual budget proposal but it must also be approved by the Dallas City Council.
Efforts across Texas are underway to set fairer construction worker standards for construction projects funded through bonds being considered by voters in November:
The Austin Community College (ACC) District Board of Trustees unanimously approved a bond for the November 2022 ballot, along with a resolution regarding construction contracting and worker standards. The resolution “ensures that future general obligation bonds continue to support the creation of good, safe construction jobs in the Central Texas region.” If voters approve the bond in November, it will require all subcontractors to have workers’ compensation coverage, pay living wages, ensure training and safety certifications, among other important worker protections. Stephanie Gharakhanian, Austin Community College Board Trustee and LPTX Organizing Committee member, played a key role in advocating for this resolution.
In September, The Austin Independent School District (AISD) Board of Trustees approved similar protections for construction workers within their bond to be approved by voters in November. This effort was supported by LPTX member Arati Singh, Austin ISD Trustee At-Large, and LPTX member Lynn Boswell, Austin ISD Trustee.
Supporting Local Organizing Efforts
LPTX members have also shown up for local organizing efforts throughout the year:
Central Texas members show support for the 72% of nurses at Austin’s Ascension Seton Medical Center who voted to join National Nurses United becoming the largest private-sector hospital to unionize in Texas!
Harris County Commissioner and LPTX member Rodney Ellis led the effort to pass a resolution in support of Harris County Starbucks workers’ efforts to unionize and to denounce any efforts to retaliate against their right to organize. San Antonio City Councilmember and LPTX Organizing Committee member Teri Castillo can often be seen showing up in support of Starbucks workers’ efforts to unionize as well!
Collaborative Governance in Action
These steps to protect Texas workers truly represent collaborative governance in action – open and honest dialogue between workers, local elected officials, labor unions, and community partners. This work would not be possible without our incredible partners who tirelessly pushed for these policies, including AFSCME 1624, Unite Here Local 23, Workers Defense Project, Texas Organizing Project, the Texas AFL-CIO and its affiliated local and regional labor councils, IBEW 520, Central Texas Interfaith, Southwest Laborers District Council, and many more who continue to reinvent what’s possible at the local level.
More to Come
Texas has been a place for innovative worker-centered policy at the local level, and this movement continues to grow. For more information on the role of local governments in protecting workers’ rights, check out our report.