Category Archives: Economy

CPPP Releases New Family Budget Tool

One of my favorite policy groups, the Center for Public Policy Priorities released a new data tool that finds what a two-income family with two kids must earn to cover basic expenses in various areas of the state, without any kind of family or government assistance.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other public sources, the Center for Public Policy Priorities created the Better Texas Family Budgets, an online public education tool that measures what it really takes to survive and thrive across 26 metropolitan areas for eight different family sizes.

They go on to describe some startling facts.

“The basic budgets we’ve created paint a picture of what it takes for Texas families to cover basic needs and have a safe and healthy lifestyle,” said Frances Deviney, senior research associate at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “Our base budgets don’t account for what it takes to get ahead, such as college savings for their children or emergency savings to protect against unexpected hard times.”

To explore what it takes to get ahead, the Better Texas Family Budgets tool features three new savings categories – emergency, college, and retirement – that the user can opt to add on top of the basic family budget.

“The Better Texas Family Budgets addresses how much income is enough for working Texas families, and clearly, the answer is complex,” Deviney said. “It depends on how big your family is, where you live, and what kind of benefits your job provides, if any at all.”

The Better Texas Family Budgets also calculates how many jobs in each metropolitan area pay enough to cover the needs of different sized families.

“From what this shows us, just having a job is not enough in Texas, and there is gap between what people are earning and how much it costs to live.” said Don Baylor, Jr., senior policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

Nearly 80 percent of low-income Texas families are working full-time and year-round, so clearly many of them are poor not because they don’t work but because their job doesn’t pay enough. In fact, Texas has the third-worst rate across the country of jobs that pay at or below minimum wage.

“Not only do we need jobs that pay and offer good benefits, but also we must reinvest in the safety net to keep families from falling further into poverty when times get tough,” Baylor said.

For all those who complain about assistance for those who need it, well, this tool provides a dose of reality.

This tool highlights what life is really like for Texas families and emphasizes what our policy priorities should be moving forward during the 2013 legislative session. To ensure that all Texans can not only get by, but can actually get ahead, we need to invest in public and higher education to create opportunities for well-paying jobs with benefits. We also need to shore up those work supports for Texans whose jobs don’t pay enough to cover basic expenses by ensuring they do not go hungry (e.g., Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and have access to affordable quality health care (e.g., implementation of health reform). These programs provide a critical hand-up to families who are working hard to get ahead.

Accompanying the tool is a video documentary which can be seen here.

Thanks to CPPP for developing this snapshot of reality.

Thompson Files Liquor on Sundays Bill

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D) shot up the rankings for favorite legislator with her filing of a bill that would allow liquor stores to be open on Sundays.

Texas could potentially gain $7.5 million in new revenue every other year if the Sunday ban were lifted, according to a 2011 Texas Legislative Budget Board analysis.

Texas is looking for all sorts of new revenue without raising taxes and this is one idea that I enjoy. I don’t know how many Sundays I’ve spent thinking, “If only I could go buy a new bottle of Makers Mark today.” Seriously.

Beyond the love of libations, this just makes sense. If anything, I wish Texas was more like New Mexico, where I can walk into any Walgreens to buy a bottle of something. But this is definitely progress.

What About the Latina Wage Gap?

The National Partnership for Women and Families released some new information found in the most recent Census:  Latinas are getting hit worse by the gender wage gap.

In the 20 states with the largest number of Latinas who work full time, year round, the wage gap ranges from 51 and 68 cents for every dollar paid to men in those states.

The fact that there is a wage gap isn’t a surprise, but as women are said to make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, the fact that Latinas are making even less is cause for concern, and in the case of the National Partnership, action.

“Women of color are hard hit by a kind of perfect – and perfectly devastating – storm caused by discrimination, a struggling economy and the country’s failure to adopt family friendly workplace policies,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “These new data show that the wage gap is costing women of color thousands of dollars in critical income each year that could be spent on food, rent, health care and on meeting other fundamental needs for their families. It’s an unacceptable situation that should be a resounding wake-up call for lawmakers who have the power to do something about it.”

When one looks at it in real dollar figures:

Nationally, Latinas are paid just 60 cents for every dollar paid to all men. That amounts to a loss of $19,182 each year. In general, women of color fare worse than women overall, who are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to all men – or $11,084 less per year.

The National Partnership is supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act which would close loopholes to the Equal Pay Act and provide for stronger worker protections for women. This is definitely something that we must support.

The National Partnership’s findings for the 20 states with the largest numbers of employed Latinas and African American women can be found at and More information on the wage gap can be found at

Report: Eating, Drinking, and Sleeping – Good for Houston

The Greater Houston Restaurant Association released the results of a study on the impact of the hospitality industry on the local economy. At face value, this looks pretty good for Houston.

Hotels and restaurants in Harris County directly employed more than 162,000 workers in 2011 and had $7.9 billion in sales during the year. People working as hospitality employees comprised 9% of Harris County’s total private sector employment.
In 2011, there were an estimated 41,800 indirect and induced jobs at suppliers and other businesses. The total employment contribution of the Harris County hospitality industry is estimated to be 203,900 full-time and part-time jobs. For every ten hotel and restaurant employees, there are nearly three indirect or induced jobs in the local economy.
Hotels and restaurants and their employees contributed an estimated $792 million in direct, indirect and induced state and local taxes in 2011. The majority of direct taxes were property taxes paid by hospitality industry establishments and their employees.
Hotels and restaurants remitted $740 million in 2011 in sales and hotel occupancy taxes on consumer purchases.
The hospitality industry made a combined tax contribution, taxes paid and remitted, of $1.5 billion in 2011.
Indirect and induced economic activity related to hotels and restaurants supported an additional 41,800 jobs and $5.3 billion in sales.
For every million dollars of direct industry sales, there was an estimated $700,000 of associated indirect and induced sales related to hospitality industry purchases from: local suppliers and hospitality industry & supplier employee purchases from local businesses.
Indirect and induced economic activity related to the hospitality industry in Harris County contributed $156 million in additional state and local taxes.
The hospitality industry’s total Harris County direct, indirect and induced income contribution totaled $6.0 billion in 2011, including $3.5 billion of direct wages, tips and benefits paid to hospitality industry employees and $2.5 billion of indirect and induced income earned by employees of suppliers and other businesses.
For each dollar of direct compensation paid to hospitality industry employees, the total estimated contribution to Harris County personal income was $1.70.

Someone like me would argue various issues also come into play in some of these sectors, whether it is low wages, lack of employee benefits, or wage theft, or some other issue the GHRA may not enjoy reading about with their report, but for now, it is good to know just what the industry’s  impact is on the Houston area. The issues to which I refer may not reflect on the entire industry, but they deserve their own study nonetheless.

Still, this report gives us a picture of an industry that one way or another benefits Houston.

I won’t get into the food truck debate, though, since I tend to agree with Gustavo Arellano on that issue.

Event: Up With The Workers! ~ Gulfton Forum on Wage Theft

From the Inbox

Saturday, July 28th at 2PM

Join us this Saturday at the Neighborhood Centers Baker-Ripley House (6500 Rookin St. 77074) for our first ever “Up with the Workers!” Gulfton Community Forum on Wage Theft. We’ll hear from community leaders, agencies, and organizations supporting workers in their struggle for just working conditions and recovering their due wages. We’ll also hear the latest from the Worker Center and the Down with Wage Theft Campaign…But most importantly, we’ll hear from YOU! Come share with us how wage theft has affected you or your community and how we can work together to bring down wage theft and make Houston a just and prosperous place to work!

For more information, email or call 713-862-8222

Mayor Parker Calls For Renewed Negotiations With Janitors.

During this somber Friday, it felt pretty good to read Mayor Annise Parker’s statement in support of renewed negotiations between Houston Janitors and the companies which have refused to give them a much needed raise.

“I am calling on the contracting companies to go back to the negotiating table.  Their unwillingness to talk has left the union with no other choice but civil disobedience.  That is not good for the City of Houston or our economy and it is not how we do business in Houston.  We work hard, we work together and we treat each other fairly.  The union has made good-faith offers.  Now it’s time for the janitorial contractors to sit back down at the table to work out an agreement that is fair and just.”

After the Mayor’s appearance on the Colbert show this week, under the bit of excitement of her selling Houston and its stronger-than-most-other-cities-economy, I still felt that Houston could do much better in so many ways. The Mayor’s support for renewed negotiations gave that feeling a bit of a boost.

The Houston Janitors responded favorably despite the fact that it was Houston PD who arrested fifteen (15) activists who engaged in civil disobedience in support of the Janitors.

Learn more about the Houston Janitors by watching this video, and then give them your support.


Janitors on Strike–A Week of Action

It has been an action-filled week for Houston Janitors who are on strike. With corporate employers not agreeing to a pay raise for these hard-working individuals, the Janitors have had no choice but to go on strike and demonstrate outside of Houston’s high rises in downtown.

On Wednesday, fifteen (15) supporters of the striking Janitors were arrested after blocking traffic in Downtown during the lunch hour.

The group sat in a circle in the intersection of Smith and Bell about 12:30 p.m., surrounded by about 250 supporters carrying mops and banging on drums. Police closed the street about a block away, and some traffic backed up behind the roadblocks.

The Service Employees International Union said in news releases that the people arrested came from around the country. Fewer than half are from Houston, and none are janitors themselves, according to a list included in one release.

On Tuesday, I met some of these folks and saw their organizing skills in action as Janitors protested at the ExxonMobil HQ in Downtown Houston. I also lent them my support and marched with them.

This past weekend, the children of the Janitors staged a protest.

While we get so caught up with political campaigns, we must not forget about the working people our campaigns talk about–and that goes for the candidates, too. But I will say it has been good to see a few of our elected officials out there, but more are needed.

On Thursday at 7PM, a Mass will be held at the Co-Cathedral in Downtown. Attend and show your support of these hard-working Houstonians Taxpayers who are being mistreated by local corporations.

Join Houston Janitors at Mass for Justice

From the Inbox:

Dear Friend,

First of all, we would like to thank you for your constant support for Houston’s janitors.  It is people like you that give us strength to continue fighting for a better future for all of Houston. Saturday’s Children’s Day of Action was a great success you helped make happen.  The Houston Chronicle highlights the event.

As you may know, hundreds of Houston janitors walked off the job and initiated a city-wide strike last week.   Many leaders have pledged support and momentum has swung in favor of the workers. Friday, the strike grew from 9 to 18 buildings. Hundreds more are expected to join later this week as the strike escalates.  We will continue the strike until business owners and contracting companies agree to pay us a fair wage.

Just like you, our brothers and sisters from all over the world are standing with Houston janitors.  Members in Hong Kong, Australia, England, Poland and France urged J.P. Morgan Chase, Hines, Crescent-Barclays, and ISS in their respective countries to do right by Houston’s janitors.  Colombia and UNI Americaswrote letters in support of Houston’s janitors to the Greater Houston Partnership, while members in Brazil wrote a support letter to Houston’s Mayor Annise Parker.

But we can’t stop there.  On behalf of Houstonian janitors and Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Fiorenza We would like to invite you to come to a very special Mass at theCO-CATHEDRAL OF THE SACRED HEART on Thursday July 19th at 7:30pm. The Mass was organized to celebrate the link between faith, work, and justice and to call on business leaders to support the good jobs our communities desperately need.

In order to restore the middle class in Houston, we must stay connected.  Please text OurHouston to 787-753 to receive the latest updates on Houstonian Janitors.

Kind Regards,

Houston Janitors


Thursday, July 19th- 7:00 pm


Inbox: Janitors Fired for Defending Their Rights

From Service Employees International Union:

Janitors across Houston have been without a contract for more than a week and they have now been forced to call strikes in multiple buildings due to employer harassment and intimidation. They’re doing what they have to in order to protect their families, and they’re standing up for fair wages for all Houston workers.

But now, eleven janitors who work for New York based cleaning contractor Pritchard were notified today that they would not be allowed to return to work—in apparent violation of federal law. The janitors work at 363 North Belt.

Janitors need your support now more than ever. Can you take a minute to send an email to the owner of 363 North Belt urging them to tell Pritchard to hire back the janitors who were illegally fired?

Houston is facing a crisis. Over half a million Houstonians are paid less than $10 an hour, meaning that even if they work full-time, they take home less than $1600 a month – and as a result, one in four children in Houston now live in poverty.

Janitors want to change the tide for ordinary people in this city. And no one should be fired for exercising their right to organize and stand up for fair benefits.  Will you stand with them?

Click here to send an email in support of the North Belt janitors.

Are you ready to stand with janitors in the fight for good jobs and a fair economy? Join us tomorrow:

Tuesday, June 12th


Tranquility Park, Houston TX

Thank you,

Houston Janitors

$1.65 an Hour Raise, Too Much?

Houston Janitors conducted a strike and work stoppage on Tuesday as the companies that hire them aren’t willing to give them a $1.65 per hour raise, along with other contract requests.

Service Employees International Union has been organizing Janitors in Houston for quite some time and have achieved various successes for Janitors in the recent past. Well, the contract has ended, it is negotiation time, and it is time the seven companies in the negotiations treat their employees with some added respect; not to mention incentive, for cleaning up after them.

The janitors, whose contract expired May 31, want to boost their pay to $10 an hour over the next three years. Most janitors in Houston top out at $8.35 an hour.

Martinez said janitors might strike at other locations this week.

“We want to give owners and contractors a chance to respond,” she said. “As the weeks go by, it could get bigger.”

Let’s hope the message is received, so that all those involved achieve job security and a slight raise. Or as SEIU puts it:

As Houston’s poverty and hunger rate rise, janitors are calling attention to the income inequality that’s contributing to the deterioration of our communities. Houston janitors clean the offices of some of the richest corporations in the world, including profitable energy corporations Chevron, Exxon Mobile, Shell Oil, Penzoil, Centerpoint Energy and Reliant. Despite record profits and ballooning CEO pay, janitors who clean Houston’s office buildings are paid less than $9,000 a year—less than half the poverty level. A janitor would have to work more than 2,000 years in order to earn what the Exxon and Chevron CEOs make in just one year.