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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

UPDATED (now with more quotes): County prevailing wage bill introduced

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 10:39 AM

As we were the first to report on Monday, county councilor Bill Robinson introduced a countywide prevailing wage bill in county council last night.

You can find the legislation here. I haven't done a line-by-line comparison between Robinson's measure and the legislation put forward by city council but the measures appear to be highly similar.

Both pieces of legislation would require employers receiving government aid to pay a prevailing wage -- an average of wages and benefits paid to workers similarly employed -- to any building service, hotel, grocery, and food service workers. Both measures kick in when government subsidies amount to $100,000 or more. Both would apply to projects of at least 100,000 square feet in size -- 30,000 square feet for grocery stores -- and to residential properties with at least 50 units. 

One difference that does jump out is that the city's legislation appears to treat non-compliance more harshly. The county bill says that if an employer violates the bill, "in no event shall  the sanctions imposed ... exceed a total value of $20,000." The city's measure, meanwhile says that violators who accept subisidies can be penalized with "a fine in the amount of no less than thirty thousand dollars."

CP's own Chris Young was at the meeting last night, and says that Robinson had two cosponsors: Chuck Martoni and Amanda Green Hawkins. Given council's Democratic-heavy make-up, and generally union-friendly orientation, that may not seem like many. But it isn't for lack of interest, it seems: Young says that John DeFazio and Joan Cleary have plans to introduce their own bill sometime next month. He also says that while Robinson's bill is very similar to the city's, Robinson told him (Correction: Robinson announced this during the council meeting itself) he'd been working up the bill himself for the past few months. 

Check back for more from Young later today: I expect him in a little late, on account of naturally needing some time to recover from the high drama of an Allegheny County Council meeting. I hope to have something on more wage-adjusting action at the city level as well.

UPDATE: Young has now straggled into the office, muttering something about the tedium of council proclamations and never forgiving me. But he also has this bit of news: Prior to Robinson's introduction of the bill, councilor Vince Gastgeb -- a Republican representing the county's South Hills -- asked County Executive Dan Onorato what he thought of the prevailing wage bill being discussed at the city level.

Onorato, who was on hand for his quarterly council address, said there wasn't "any legislation in front of me to comment on." But he added, "I don't disagree with the concept" of prevailing wage: "If we're going to use public subsidies, it would be nice to pay [prevailing] wages."

As for Robinson's rationale for putting the bill forward, Robinson maintained that the measure "is not prompted by any actions of any other governmental body or any other elected official."  It was, he says, simply motivated by "my concern for the community-benefits approach ... that will requrie developers to meet certain conditions. The aim is to be fair and just, and to spread the wealth to everyone in the county."

The SEIU, which has been a driving force behind the city's prevailing wage bill, welcomes the measure. In a statement, 32BJ Western PA director Gabe Morgan cited the companion bills as proof of "broad support for making sure development subsidies benefit working people and communities. Pittsburgh wants good jobs that allowe working people to support their families."

 

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