News Round-up: county minimum wage hike in flux while protesters take on Shell and JOB | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

News Round-up: county minimum wage hike in flux while protesters take on Shell and JOB

It’s been an eventful week around town, with a new minimum wage scale on the horizon for all county employees, one protest calling for public oversight of Shell’s massive Beaver County plant, and another prematurely shutting down a public meeting.

NEWS: Minimum wage

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has vetoed a recent council bill that would establish a new minimum wage schedule for all county employees.

The bill, passed last week by a 10-4 majority, sets out a series of incremental wage hikes that would guarantee all workers make at least $20 per hour by 2026. Salaried workers would similarly earn at least $41,600 annually, calculated at $20 per hour over 40-hour work weeks.

In a press release announcing his veto this afternoon, Fitzgerald says his motivation is not to thwart income growth for employees but to underscore powers he says are reserved exclusively for administration.

Council can override Fitzgerald with a two-thirds majority vote, which its members can summon if none of the bill's 10 original supporters switch their allegiance.

Council President Pat Catena — a Democrat who voted for the bill last week— did not immediately return a call inquiring about the status of the votes and any plans to override the veto.

Fitzgerald is term-limited and will leave office in December.

click to enlarge News Round-up: county minimum wage hike in flux while protesters take on Shell and JOB
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
The site of a Shell ethane cracker plant, shown under construction in 2018, in Monaca, Pa.

ENVIRONMENT: Shell protests

About 50 citizens and advocates held a rally in a downtown Beaver park last week before crossing the road into the courthouse to demand their county representatives take a firmer line against the massive Shell cracker plant.

The protestors called on the Beaver county commissioners to devise an alert system for notifying residents of pollution events, devise emergency evacuation plans, and put more pressure on state regulators charged with overseeing the chemical plant.

Commissioners expressed sympathy for their demands but insisted they have no jurisdiction over environmental and zoning regulations that could be brought to bear on the facility.

Since launching last fall, the Shell plant, which produces millions of tons of plastic each year, has been charged with multiple emissions violations, and was last month slapped with $10 million in fines.

NEWS: Meeting adjourned

The public breaking into song mid-meeting proved too much for several members of the Jail Oversight Board, who left the June 8 session early along with a handful of jail administrators.

The monthly meeting was already 90-minutes in when four protesters began singing “Mama, Mama, Can’t You See?” a popular protest song. But that time was taken up with public comments, and the board had not set about its regular scheduled business.

Instead of proceeding, though, board member Elliot Howsie, a common pleas judge who serves as the de facto president, unsuccessfully called for an adjournment, then walked out anyway. A handful of other members, along with Warden Orlando Harper followed behind, and the meeting was forced to end.

EDITORS NOTE: a print version of this story was published before Fitzgerald announced his veto on Tuesday afternoon.

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By Mars Johnson