Protecting area standards for carpenters and making Austin a safer place to live, work, and visit by publicly identifying businesses and people who contribute to the erosion of construction standards in Austin.
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This is the Frequently Asked Questions page, but many people don't even ask questions.  They just like to spout off absurd accusations about our campaign.  For this reason, we will answer common questions, and we will respond to common lies about our campaign.  If you have a question that is not answered here or if you have a lie about us that we haven't covered, feel free to send us your question or lie, and we'll be happy to include it in the FAQ section if it's relevant.

What are the "shame on" banners really about?

The banners are placed by the local Carpenters Union and are meant to raise public awareness about a serious problem facing the construction industry in Austin. Specifically, the decline in standards for carpenters in the area has caused wages for qualified craftspeople to remain stagnant.  We believe that as corporations narrow their focus to gaining maximum profit on "this" job, lower wages for carpenters tend to affect construction quality.  All costs associated with carpenters get slashed, not just wages.  This means fewer carpenters receive medical benefits, quality craft training, safety training, and proper equipment.  This assault on the ability of a carpenter to make a decent living, seek career advancement, and provide for his/her family damages the industry's ability to attract quality talent.
Fiction:  We are angry because the job went to a nonunion company.
Fact:      The Area Standards Campaign has nothing to do with whether the contractor performing the work is union or nonunion.  We are not protesting every nonunion contractor in the state of Texas.  This lazy accusation seems to be attached to every attempt to discredit our campaign, but it's not just misleading, it's a downright lie!  Every company involved in a labor dispute with us is in possession of written notification outlining our complaint and explicitly stating that the union is not asking and does not desire a contractual relationship with the substandard contractor.  Everyone involved in the dispute knows that our only desire is for the subcontractor to stop lowering the established standards for the Austin area.  We live, work, and play in this community, and we have no desire to watch Austin become a third-world city because of the greed and/or incompetence of a few bad apples.

Fiction:  The project owner had nothing to do with hiring the subcontractor.
Fact:      We find this claim to be amusing.  Are we really supposed to believe that a developer investing millions of dollars in a project has NO CONTROL over or KNOWLEDGE about who is working on their project?  We understand that the general contractor may have been given the opportunity to use any subcontractors he wished, but we find it disingenuous to suggest that the decision to give the general contractor that authority did not lie with the project owner.  We believe that rather than being good corporate citizens at all times, these owners choose to look the other way on important community standards for the sake of saving a buck.  The cumulative effect of this type of head-in-the-sand approach to construction is severely detrimental to the community over the long term.  We are in favor of owners getting a fair price, but we believe that contractors should compete on their abilities to manage construction projects and not on their abilities to ruthlessly take food out of the mouths of their workers' children.

Question:  Are the demonstrators members of the Carpenters Union?
Answer:    Maybe.  We've never heard of any union, or any social issues group at all for that matter, which requires everyone who cares about their issue and wants to help make a difference be members of any particular organization.  Since we believe that this issue affects the entire community, we accept help from any sincere individual who offers.  Interestingly, this question is usually posed as a "gotchya" question from people who think they have uncovered a scandal.  To us, the scandal is that these anti-union people suddenly want us to "force" people to join the union!  

Question:  Do you pay your demonstrators?
Answer:     Yes, if they want to be paid.  Of course, we have some members and interested supporters who can only stop by for a little while on occasion who volunteer their time.  We are, however, always happy to compensate people fairly for their time.  

Fiction:  The union doesn't even pay payroll taxes for their demonstrators.  The union puts them on 1099.
Fact:      That's ridiculous! IRS Form 1099 is a vehicle for companies to report money they gave to other companies to the IRS.  One major scam in the construction industry is for contractors to list ALL OF THEIR EMPLOYEES as subcontractors.  By doing this, they are able to avoid payroll taxes.  The problem is that IT IS ILLEGAL to falsely classify employees as contractors.  When contractors use this illegal tactic, they cheat the government out of tax dollars, which all the rest of us make up for in our tax bills.  Additionally, the cheaters get an unfair advantage over any legitimate contractor who pays taxes, whether union or nonunion.  Worst of all, the tax code provides that the employer pays some portion of an employee's payroll tax (like social security), but by illegal classification, the employer puts the entire burden on the already underpaid worker.  We spent enormous amounts of time and money fighting this kind of illegal activity.  Again, it's usually the people who defend the cheating contractors who accuse us of this behavior.  WE PAY TAXES ON OUR EMPLOYEES!  

Fiction:  The demonstrators are getting minimum wages.
Fact:      Our campaign is to PROTECT area standards.  In fact, we strive to pay our employees above what they could get for the same job somewhere else in the city.  We are not just protecting the current standard, we are raising the standard.  

Question:  Isn't it hypocritical to pay your demonstrators less than you are asking contractors to pay carpenters?
Answer:    NOT AT ALL!  We do not believe that every job is worth the same pay.  Even the standard pay for carpenters is different according to the area.  For example, we are not asking contractors in Austin to pay carpenters the same as carpenters in New York City.  Neither are we asking that carpenters get paid as much as lawyers, CEO's, or any other job.  Our goal is to protect the standards that have already been set.  We know that not only are we asking for fair wages for the carpenters, but we also know that it's a wage that allows contractors to be competitive in the market without destroying the industry's ability to attract and train new local talent.

Question:  Are all of your demonstrators carpenters?
Answer:    Of course not!  Do all voters who support lowering estate taxes have taxable estates?  Has everyone who favors abolishing the death penalty committed a capital crime?  As with any cause, our cause welcomes the support of any like-minded individuals or groups.

Question:  Do you hire homeless people to demonstrate?
Answer:     Actually, whether or not someone is homeless in not a question we ask during the hiring process.  We welcome anyone who is sincere, performs well, and has a desire to affect change.  Also, we find this to be an odd question.  Wouldn't the community want homeless people to work for their money?  People often believe that people are homeless because they are not dependable.  The fact is that people become homeless for all kinds of reasons.  We believe helping homeless people develop a job history and earn some money, while helping to keep Austin a great city is something that more city employers should be trying to do.