How Pittsburgh plans to help more workers get a raise

A $15 minimum wage could be coming to more city contractors.

A Pittsburgh #FightFor15 demonstration as part of a larger national 'day of disruption' by service workers across the country.

A Pittsburgh #FightFor15 demonstration as part of a larger national 'day of disruption' by service workers across the country.

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline
Sarah Anne Hughes

Update: Tuesday, Dec. 20, 11:10 a.m.

On Jan. 1, some city workers will see their hourly wage rise to $12.50 — and a new bill secures raises for even more.

The Pittsburgh City Council will soon take up mandating a $15-an-hour minimum wage for certain city contractors. The bill was submitted to the council as part of Mayor Bill Peduto’s executive order to raise the minimum wage of city employees to that level by 2021.

As chair of the Committee on Finance and Law, Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak was originally scheduled to introduce the legislation at Tuesday’s regular meeting of council, according to an agenda. The bill was pulled from the agenda for revisions and is now expected to be introduced next week.

The bill applies to professional service contracts executed by the city that exceed $100,000 and that “are paid solely by City funds.” Employees must work at least 30 hours per week for the covered contractor and perform duties that “arise directly out of a Covered Service Contract.”

“We don’t expect [the new ordinance] to impact too many contractors,” Peduto spokesperson Tim McNulty said Monday via email, adding that most already pay their employees at least $15 an hour.

Peduto’s 2015 executive order guaranteed raises for an estimated 300 city employees. The minimum wage increase is happening gradually: $12.50 in 2017, $13.75 in 2019, $15 in 2021.

Not covered by the new contractor bill are:

  • “Employees on a construction projects subject to federal, state or local prevailing wages laws;
  • “Employees engaged in a bona fide training program, not to exceed 60 days in duration, under which the person will advance into permanent employment;
  • “Employees or interns participating in a student internship program;
  • Individuals employed by or participating in the City’s Summer Youth Employment Program.”

Interns and summer employment participants are not covered, as they are not full-time employees, McNulty said.

The legislation is essentially all the city can do at this point to further raise the minimum wage. As a second-class city, courts have ruled that Pittsburgh is unable to mandate the actions of private businesses.

Labor and social justice groups like Pittsburgh United have organized low-wage workers to demonstrate in favor of higher pay, most recently in November as part of a “Day of Disruption.” Nineteen people were arrested during that protest.