We Austinites love our weird city and we aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo in Texas — it’s what we’re known for. Regardless of our race, gender or place, together, we’re unstoppable when powerful state elected officials don’t support our core values. But, we know we’ve got to stick together. Here’s an opportunity to live our values!
This Thursday, June 16, Austin City Council will vote on whether to increase the minimum wage for city employees to $22 per hour. Data strongly supports $22 as a modest living wage in Austin — just enough to get by. Housing rental rates have doubled and the average 1-bedroom apartment rents at $1,500 a month. Austin has the second highest year-over-year rent increase nationally at 35%. Frankly, Austin is increasingly inaccessible for individuals and families, including our valuable city employees. The Economic Policy Institute Family Budget Calculator shows that a family of four in Austin will need $7,170 to cover their monthly costs or $42 per hour between two working adults.
Our Budget Priorities: We All Benefit When the City Pays Workers a Living Wage
Too many of Austin’s city employees aren’t earning a living wage. As a result, City staff vacancies are 17% across the board with EMS vacancies at 25%, Austin Fire Department vacancies at 9%, and Austin Police Department civilian vacancies at 20.5%. The City must prioritize staffing needs before all other new spending in FY 2023.
This summer, the City of Austin has opened only 15 of our 34 neighborhood pools due to a lifeguard shortage. Austin hopes to open more pools if lifeguard capacity increases, but the City is not paying an hourly rate to sufficiently compete with the private market. Not paying city workers a living wage is costing all of us. The proof is in our drained public pools during unprecedented summer heat.
Our Values: Dignity for Ourselves and Our Families
Data strongly supports $22 per hour as a modest living wage for people living in Austin; $15 per hour puts individuals and families in financial stress and, in many cases, poverty. Beyond the data, there is something even more important: our community’s values. If Austin is committed to building equity and opportunity for Austinites of all backgrounds, establishing a living wage for city employees is a critical step in living these values. An estimated 4,000 city employees will benefit from a $22 per hour living wage and most of them are women and people of color. Historically, minimum wage increases have improved inequity between Black and white workers.
Austinites know our worth and our options. We can come together across race, gender, and place to demand solutions that prioritize our families, neighbors, and city employees. Please call your Austin council member TODAY and ask them to vote YES on raising the city minimum wage to $22 – because we’re worth it!
Whether Black, brown, or white, from Williamson County to Travis County, Texans believe in dignified wages for ourselves and our families. Let’s stick together and take action today!