Workers say Austin is getting harder and harder to live in

Organizers and unions gathered at the Texas Capitol on Labor Day, sharing stories and fighting for change.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Labor Day, Chivas Watson, a warehouse worker, will work a 12-hour shift and still barely make ends meet.

“At $11.21 an hour, they expect you to work 60 hours a week,” Watson said.

So says the city of Austin a living wage is $20 an hour.

In addition to working his warehouse job, Watson also takes on other freelance jobs.

“We need to have independent jobs, independent workers, but we’ve also taken on private jobs to help people move from South Austin to North Austin,” he told KVUE.

His buddy Malkiyah Israel is in a similar boat but works as a privateer. He lives in his car and cannot take care of his basic needs.

“Because I’m self-employed, I don’t get the benefits of being offered 401,000, healthcare or anything like that. I have to come out of my own pocket,” Israel said.

Workers like Watson and Israel are why organizers and unions gathered at the Texas Capitol on Monday, sharing stories and fighting for change.

“We are fighting for safer working conditions, we are fighting for higher wages, we are fighting for social benefits and above all we are fighting for respect and dignity,” the organizer said Restaurant workers united John Cuvillier.

Low-wage workers make up a large portion of Austin’s workforce. They are among the lowest paid, but we rely on them every day.

In a city employing about 1.2 million people, there are nearly 30,000 transport and warehouse workers, 100,000 in hotels and restaurants, and another 111,000 in retail.

Because of this, the organizers say it is important for them to get organized and stand up for workers on the front lines.

“We’re honestly just here to celebrate this new wave of organizing and to network with other unions to work together,” Culliver said.

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Laura Coffey

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