Pittsburgh councilman revives living wage for city projects

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Pittsburgh Councilman Ricky Burgess is introducing legislation today that would cause the implementation of a long-sidelined city of Pittsburgh living wage ordinance.

Mr. Burgess's legislation, just six lines long, would have the effect of unlocking a lengthy and complicated set of rules governing wages paid by the city, its contractors, and the beneficiaries of its development subsidies. Those rules were approved by council in 2002, but only on the condition that Allegheny County adopt a similar living wage ordinance. That never happened, so the city rules never took effect.

Mr. Burgess's legislation would eliminate the wait-for-the-county provision.

"It would make it go live," Mr. Burgess said today. "It makes a living wage mandatory for most development projects that receive city financing," plus for workers on city contracts. It also includes a provision giving city residents an advantage over non-city residents in competition for jobs created with city backing, which Mr. Burgess said "makes it more likely that a resident of the city of Pittsburgh would get employment opportunities."

The 2002 ordinance required payment of $9.12 an hour plus health insurance, or $10.62 an hour without health insurance, to a broad swath of workers whose employers benefit from city tax dollars.

The living wage provision be broader and cover more workers than either prevailing wage bill under consideration by council. Mr. Burgess said he wants the living wage bill in addition to the prevailing wage bill.

The two prevailing wage bills, one developed by council and the other by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, would guarantee that hotel, grocery, janitorial and cafeteria workers at city-backed development sites be paid according to an average of the earnings of their peers in the city.

Council unanimously approved a bill last year, but it was vetoed by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, and has been reintroduced. The other, less expansive version is backed by Mr. Ravenstahl.

"Since we have nine votes to do justice, why not do justice for everybody?" asked Mr. Burgess.

Rich Lord can be reached at rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.


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