City of Pittsburgh recognizes business paying a living wage
February 19, 2016 10:46 AM
Benjamin Taylor, distiller and lead blender at Wigle Whiskey, is featured in informational signs that will appear in city bus shelters recognizing the distillery for paying its employees at least $10.10 per hour.
By Lexi Belculfine / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Wigle Whiskey treats its staff and customers like family, co-owner Meredith Grelli said.
And a city program debuting today that highlights local businesses that pay workers a living wage embraces the same spirit, she said.
The Strip District distillery is the first business that will be featured on some of 240 city-owned bus shelters after increasing workers’ pay to $10.10 per hour — a program created by Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O’Connor.
Three posters featuring Wigle employees go up today in Downtown, the Strip District and parts of Lawrenceville. The posters read, “The City of Pittsburgh acknowledges Wigle for paying all of its employees a living wage.” Though the three people seen in the signs were among many workers already making $10.10 per hour at Wigle, its designer was among the part-time staffers who had their pay boosted because of the distillery’s participation, Ms. Grelli said.
Wigle was one of about a half-dozen businesses that expressed interest in the program when council unanimously approved the legislation in March 2015, and Mr. O’Connor said he hopes business owners who see the promotions will be inspired to sign on, too, eventually raising wages for several hundred workers.
“If I could wave a magic wand, [it would be] a thousand, if we could. I think it’s a good conversation to have. There’s a lot of talk about raising the minimum wage across the country, and this is a way to support the small businesses who were willing to take that step,” he said.
Mr. O’Connor introduced the resolution amid President Barack Obama’s push for an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. As of Jan. 1, 28 states, as well as Washington, D.C. and territory Guam, have base pays higher than the federal minimum, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Mayor Bill Peduto signed the bill and, “of course supports all businesses paying their workers above the state and federal minimum. That is also why he signed an executive order last year phasing in a $15 minimum wage for all full-time city employees,” spokesman Tim McNulty said.
Under the councilman’s plan, city businesses with 15 to 250 employees that raise their minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, or $3.93 per hour for tipped employees, are eligible for at least six months of promotion on city-owned bus shelters. Businesses with fewer than 15 employees can apply for special consideration and those whose employees already make $10.10 per hour can be featured if it gives them a raise, but non-profits are ineligible.
The Department of Finance administers the program and will check with businesses to ensure they do not cut their wages after being recognized.
“Using free city advertising space on bus shelters to recognize employers who lift their employees economically is a great idea by Councilman O’Connor,” Finance Director Paul Leger said. “Raising workers’ pay is good for them, good for employee retention and morale and good for Pittsburgh.”
The program comes at “very little cost to the city,” said Chuck Durham, city market base revenue opportunities specialist. The city, he said, is allowed to feature information, but not advertising, in the shelters managed by Lamar Advertising.
“The city can really work with small businesses to give them a win-win. So their employees stay, they’re happy, they’re getting a higher wage, and then they’re also getting promotion across the city,” Mr. O’Connor said.
Lexi Belculfine: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc.
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