"And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
At last Thursday's meeting, council took two GROTESQUELY AWFUL actions that can only hurt our most vulnerable residents.
First, what started as a laudable effort to 'ban the box' went HORRIBLY awry:
The Austin City Council voted 8-2 Thursday night to pass the “fair chance hiring” ordinance championed by Council Member Greg Casar, which prevents companies from asking applicants to check a box on a job application if they have a criminal history. Council Members Don Zimmerman and Ellen Troxclair voted no, while Council Member Sheri Gallo was absent from the meeting.In other words, it's still ok to not hire someone with a criminal background, but now council is making a potential employer string the applicant along for days (if not weeks) rather than allowing them to be direct. People with criminal backgrounds will still have trouble finding work, but now employers will have to go through a burdensome and costly process to reach that decision. This is the worst of all possible worlds.
The ordinance applies to employers with at least 15 workers. Those companies may refuse to hire a person based on his or her criminal history only after considering the “nature and gravity” of the offense, the length of time that has passed since the offense and the scope of the job the person wants.
Roberta Schwartz, a vice president with Goodwill Central Texas, said the nonprofit objected to the ordinance — even though Goodwill hires employees with criminal records. It could be “devastating” for applicants to go through a long hiring process, get a conditional job offer and then be turned away because of a former offense, Schwartz said.
“That’s the kind of thing that makes you just throw your hands up and say, ‘I might as well just go back to jail,’” said Schwartz, who said she has a criminal record.
Council Member Don Zimmerman said there are other private employers in Austin who, like Goodwill, have chosen to move background checks later in the hiring process.
“They’re already doing it without mandates. They say … we object to the mandates,” Zimmerman said.
The Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce estimated the measure could affect at least 5,000 local businesses. Jose Carrillo, the chamber’s vice president of regional business advocacy, urged the council to delay action and to consider allowing a background check after an initial interview, which he said is the practice in Seattle and San Francisco.
Council Member Ellen Troxclair asked Casar if he would consider that change, but Casar declined.
Fortunately Matt Rinaldi noticed, and we will support any efforts he takes in this area next session:
The awfulness didn't stop there:
City subcontractors – such as airport food vendors and construction workers – will now be paid $13.03 an hour after City Council extended the city’s living wage requirements on Thursday to everyone working on a city contract.Of course, the end result is $0 per hour when politicians price jobs out of existence.
Two ordinances that closed the loophole that left subcontractors out of previously passed living wage requirements passed on 8-2 votes, with Council members Ellen Troxclair and Don Zimmerman opposed and Sheri Gallo absent.
The ordinance was one of several proposed by Council Member Greg Casar meant to address employment in Austin. After hearing from Gutierrez – who was flanked at the podium by supporters – Casar said the measures particularly would help the “working-class community” in his own District 4.
But it gets better; while it doesn't come directly from Council, a city board has just invented "wage waivers":
Capital Metro Gives Developer a “Wage Waiver,” (A New Breed of Fee Waiver)Bottom Line: Kudos to Don Zimmerman and Ellen Troxclair for standing firm against this insanity (remember, this nonsense used to pass unanimously). They need re-enforcements. In the meantime, however, congratulations to the council majority for making life more difficult for ex-cons and restricting economic opportunity for low-income Austinites while accomplishing NOTHING positive in return.
Capital Metro and the Endeavor Real Estate Group negotiated a deal for the construction of the 10-acre Plaza Saltillo development downtown. When the dust settled after Tuesday night’s board meeting, the developer walked away winning their original offer of $11.39 per hour minimum wage for the workers. And yet the workers won also, because they will be getting paid $13.03 per hour. That’s because Capital Metro agreed to “share” part of the difference with money that would otherwise belong to the taxpayers. The shared portion will be 50% of the wage increase The net taxpayer loss is estimated to be $1.05 million.
The worst thing about this first “wage waiver” is the dangerous precedent. $1.05 million is “only a little bit of money” out of a big contract. But what about the next contract and the one after that? Every developer that goes into a construction and lease deal will want the same thing. Think about the massive complex of buildings being planned for the land owned by Central Health. What we witnessed this week was the opening of Pandora’s Box.