With the state’s largest employer, health-care giant UPMC, announcing they will be raising their minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021
and even Pa.’s Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate debating wildly about the minimum wage
last night, Allegheny County Council has also thrown its hat into the minimum wage debate.
Yesterday, council passed a motion urging the Pa. General Assembly to increase the state's minimum wage to at least $10.15 an hour by a vote of 10-4 with one abstention. (Yays were all Democrats; Nays and abstention were all Republicans). The motion has no effect on Allegheny County’s minimum wage, and instead asks that state legislators increase the minimum wage with "deliberate speed."
Photo by Ryan Deto
Allegheny County Councilor Nick Futules speaking to council.
Democratic county councilor Nick Futules of Oakmont was the prime sponsor of the motion and said “this is us agreeing that $7.25 does not cut it anymore.” He told council an anecdote of visiting one fast-food establishment for breakfast and meeting a young woman who worked there. He later grabbed some dinner at a different fast-food restaurant for dinner and ran into the same young woman. She told Futules she worked two shifts a day to make ends meet.
“I believe the state and federal government should at least follow the cost of living guidelines and increase the minimum wage,” said Futules during the meeting.
Futules says he has received support from Pa. House minority leader Frank Dermody, who represents the state's 33rd legislative district and shares many constituents with Futules, and that he was following Gov. Wolf’s lead, when Wolf signed an executive order granting state workers a minimum wage of $10.15 an hour.
Republican at-large councilor Sam DeMarco voted in opposition to the bill. He commended Futules for paying more attention to the minimum wage law, but said that increasing the state minimum wage would result in the loss of thousands of jobs. He also noted that the market is already making some minimum wage decisions for itself, citing the recent news that UPMC
is raising their minimum wage.
However, some of the motion’s biggest supporters, Democratic councilors Michael Finnerty of Scott and DeWitt Walton of the Hill District, disagreed with DeMarco’s claims.
“To say that jobs have decreased as part of minimum-wage increases is totally false,” said Finnerty. “It depends on what stats you are looking at.”
Finnerty went on to say that the driving force behind minimum wages not rising has been billionaires refusing to share their profits with workers. “If a corporation is making millions and billions, they should be thinking of sharing some of that.”
Walton also criticized large corporations that have low minimum wages for workers and said he would discourage those kinds of corporations from moving to the region. “If there is a corporation paying poverty wages that is coming to Allegheny County, I would stand up and say ‘don’t come,’” said Walton at the meeting. “I will not let companies continue to pile on the poverty problem.”
The next Allegheny County Council meeting will be held at April 19 at 5 p.m. in the 4th floor Gold Room at the Allegheny County Courthouse in Downtown Pittsburgh.