Two years ago, White Lodging Development Services came to the city of Austin seeking to build a Marriott hotel in the downtown area. The city agreed to wave $3.8 million in fees if the company would agree to pay the city’s “prevailing wage.”
It was clear at the time White Lodgings did not want to be held to any kind of standard on worker wages. Eventually they complained that paying the workers the prevailing wage would cost them more than they would gain through the rebates. In other words, they wanted as much of the 300 million dollar project as possible to go to profits, and as little as possible to go to the workers.
The city later cancelled the incentive package when it became clear White Lodging was underpaying workers. The company said, “We’ve done everything they’ve asked. This has a become a political issue, not an issue being discussed based on facts.”
By “facts” the company does not mean any binding standard for paying wages. By “facts” the company means its own definitions and calculations. It had assumed it could make an agreement, get the incentive package, and then rely on wordsmithing to justify paying the workers less than it promised. That ploy has worked all over the nation, the reason it did work in Austin is that our city a vigilant group called “Worker’s Defense Project” that watches over issues of safety and fair wages. It was Worker’s Defense Project that blew the whistle on White Lodging and every citizen of Austin who cares about fairness should feel thankful to them.
This Tuesday at 6:30 Manor I am hosting an open house at the offices of Worker’s Defense Project (5604 Manor) to draw attention to the good work they do. If you would like to join us to learn more about this amazing organization, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will make room for you.