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City leaders investigate claims of improper wages at JW Marriott

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City leaders are working to make sure that White Lodging, the developer behind the upcoming JW Marriott hotel downtown, is holding up its end of a multi-million dollar deal with the city.

In 2011, Austin City Council agreed to grant White Lodging up to $3.8 million in fee waivers, but tied to the deal was an agreement that all construction workers would be paid prevailing wages.

"The City staff approved a plan for implementing the council directive,” Mayor Lee Leffingwell. “As far as I am concerned, that's the way it is right now unless somebody changes it."

Prevailing wages require workers be paid a certain minimum wage which is determined by the type of work they do. This type of wage system is already used in all government-funded projects.

Austin’s mayor was one of the seven who approved the deal with developers, but a memo from Interim Assistant City Manager Anthony Snipes revealed some doubt the contract is being upheld.

Specifically, concerns were raised by the Electrical Union regarding the payment of prevailing wage to electrical workers. "This complaint reinforced our concerns regarding non-compliant activities occurring at the job site," Snipes said in the memo

Snipes also said in the memo that there was communication between a City of Austin employee and White Lodging, the developer behind the JW Marriott, leading them to believe that they would not have to pay a prevailing wage.

"The ordinance passed by Council is very clear on requiring White Lodging to pay prevailing wages," Snipes said.

The Workers Defense Project, a local worker’s rights advocacy group, said Wednesday that it plans to show proof that White Lodging is not complying with the city’s guidelines for the project.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell told YNN that he did not want to comment on the situation just yet.

YNN is awaiting a formal statement from White Lodging.

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