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Employees demand labor protections at Austin Power base fee rally – Austin Monitor

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Tuesday, September 27, 2022 by Kali Bramble

It was an unusually vigorous morning outdoors Austin Power Headquarters final Saturday, as a coalition of employees, environmentalists and group leaders gathered to air their grievances with the publicly owned utility.

With a potential increase to residential charges on the horizon, the Texas Local weather Jobs Motion Fund led the various group of unions and civic organizations in a requirement to prioritize affordability, protected working circumstances and clear power practices. Audio system from Electrical Employees Native 520, Texas AFL-CIO, Sierra Membership, PODER and the Dawn Motion all shared the rostrum, with Council members Ann Kitchen and Kathie Tovo additionally making appearances.

“’A greater future isn’t doable for working folks, it’ll lower into our earnings …. We are able to’t construct a greener, extra sustainable future with employees which might be properly compensated, properly skilled, have well being care, who’re handled with respect and may return dwelling safely to a thriving household.’ That’s what they’re saying at Austin Power,” Native 520 member Ryan Pollock stated, to a refrain of jeers. “We’re all right here right this moment as a result of we all know that a greater future is feasible, that we deserve that higher future, and that we’re right here to combat for it.”

With plans to replace its base charges for 2023, Austin Power has come underneath hearth for a fee proposal critics say would unfairly impression low-income customers and run counterproductive to town’s environmental targets. Chief issues embody a 150 p.c improve to the mounted residential service charge from $10 to $25 per thirty days, in addition to a restructuring of pricing tiers that may transfer away from charging steeper premiums for the highest-percentile power customers.

Compounding frustrations is Austin Power’s latest announcement of a $20 increase in pass-through rates to take impact in November.

With Austin’s affordability disaster on the boiling level, the speed case has invigorated mobilization efforts on the Texas Local weather Jobs Undertaking, which fashioned final July to advocate on behalf of employees within the state’s large power business and advance the shift towards sustainable alternate options like wind and photo voltaic. Along with inequitable fee design, TCJP says Austin Power have to be held accountable for labor practices in its energy buy agreements, that are at the moment not uniformly topic to the protection and fairness requirements championed by town.

“All employees need to have a dwelling wage and protected working circumstances, and which means employees in all components of Texas the place our utility is doing enterprise,” Texas AFL-CIO organizer Ana Gonzalez stated. “Many developments within the metropolis of Austin have labor protections in place. Austin Power tasks shouldn’t be an exception.”

Audio system famous that the residential fee hikes mirror a legacy of failed guarantees to observe metropolis environmental coverage, highlighting Austin Power’s now defunct pledge to shut the Fayette coal energy plant by 2022.

“We’ve got to construct a group for this combat, as a result of establishments like Knowledge Foundry, Freescale Semiconductors, all of those main customers of not simply electrical energy however of water, which we’re in dire wrestle for on this continent, they’re on the opposite facet of those fee circumstances,” Sierra Membership chief Dave Cortez stated. “These are corporations which might be making billions of {dollars} and they’re negotiating with Metropolis Council, Austin Power to maintain their charges low and their earnings maximized.”

Council members will take up the bottom fee evaluate case in November, when they are going to be requested to make the ultimate name on Austin Power’s proposal. Till then, TCJP hopes that the momentum of latest labor successes just like the unionization of nurses at Ascension Seton will assist them mobilize towards the mounting improve.

“We want charges which might be truthful for our ratepayers; we can’t afford to bump them up so excessive that individuals have bother paying their electrical payments,” Council Member Tovo stated. “We all know households on this group are struggling … so you possibly can anticipate that I can be with you pushing again on these charges.”

Picture by Angelo DeSantis, CC BY 2.0, through Wikimedia Commons.

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