Pittsburgh’s Prevailing Wage Bill Becomes Law

Pittsburgh’s Prevailing Wage Bill Becomes Law

The Mayor didn’t veto Council’s prevailing wage legislation because he knew the veto would be overridden. Because of concerns about its effects on future development and enforceability, he didn’t sign it either. Thus the legislation became law. Just one more burden the City taxpayers must bear.

While the Mayor is understandably concerned about its impact on future development, he also needs to worry about its impact on the City’s finances. The law requires the City Controller to study and determine the median wages for all affected job classifications. For a department that is already stretched thin, this is a cost-increasing mandate. How is the controller going to allocate resources to carry out what could be a fairly expensive undertaking without affecting his ability to do the work already required? Will he ask for more money from council or allow needed work to slip or get done in an unsatisfactory manner? And they don’t have much time to get it done, as the law takes effect in 60 days.

The increase to the Controller’s budget is not the only concern. The law also requires the City and firms operating under City contracts to pay the prevailing wage to janitorial and food service workers. City employees already making less than the prevailing wage will not be the only ones getting a boost, but to maintain workplace hierarchy, those above them will be increased proportionally as well. And of course firms or agencies with City contracts will pass this cost onto the City in the form of higher prices in any future contracts and could ask for or sue for immediate additional funding assistance on the grounds the terms of their contract have been affected.

Does the Council have a plan to pay for these increased costs? It’s doubtful they will look to raise taxes on their constituents, but continue to pursue suburbanites and others that don’t vote in the City. This mandate will do very little to lift people out of poverty, but it will do very much to sink an already financially strapped City.

Moreover, since the law will almost certainly reduce the amount of new development in the City, significant tax base and income generation that might have occurred to help City finances won’t happen.

All told, the prevailing wage law is a surefire loser for city taxpayers both near and long term. But Council in its best Alfred E. Neuman portrayal is saying, "What, me worry?"