Living Wage Returns

Living Wage Returns

Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess wants to resurrect the City’s dormant living wage law. His action follows quickly on the heels of prevailing wage legislation being reintroduced after being vetoed by the Mayor. The Councilman’s rationale is that if the prevailing wage for workers on City subsidized projects is justice, then "why not justice for everyone?"

The City’s living wage bill was made dormant by a provision that the County would need to enact a similar law. Since the County has not done so, coming to its senses back in 2001 when it came up for a vote, the City version never took effect.

So why not do justice for everyone? Well for starters that City cannot afford it. Keep in mind that this is the same City that is buckling under the weight of its legacy costs and has been under state-controlled financial oversight since 2005 with no end in sight. To keep its head above water the City recently went after the university community by threatening to levy a tuition tax on all college students within its borders. While this attempt was unsuccessful, it underscores just how precarious City finances are.

The living wage ordinance doesn’t cover just firms receiving City subsidies. It covers firms contracting with the City and City workers themselves. Imposing the living wage law will only put more strain on finances. Firms with contracts will adjust their bid to cover the increased wage costs and the City’s personnel costs and contracted services will increase.

Of course the taxpayers will end up paying for this version of "justice"-something they can do without.