Pittsburgh passes, New York considers prevailing wage law
On Feb. 19, Pittsburgh passed a citywide policy to create jobs that pay prevailing wages to service workers employed at city-subsidized developments, despite Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s disapproval. Meanwhile, New York City is considering a similar law.
Pittsburgh’s new law requires developers that receive subsidies or other tax-incentives to pay the private sector going rate to building service, food service, hotel and grocery workers. The law also requires city contractors to pay prevailing wages to their workers.
New York-based property service workers union 32BJ SEIU welcomed the new law. “The law ensures Pittsburgh families will see more of their tax dollars go toward creating good jobs,” 32BJ SEIU President Mike Fishman said in a statement. “Cities around the country should follow Pittsburgh’s lead and get out of the business of creating poverty jobs.”
However, Ravenstahl says the law will not stand up to a legal challenge. Ravenstahl vetoed the original version of the bill in December, and he did not sign the amended version, though he did allow it to become law. “The bill in its current form has too many vague and ambiguous terms, needs additional input from the entire community, and, most importantly, has the potential to hurt Pittsburgh,” the mayor wrote in his veto message. “This bill will all but ensure that [large] projects will look to other geographic areas without the constraint of its restrictions.”
New York City Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito introduced a bill in early February that would establish a similar policy in New York. “Too many New Yorkers are working hard but struggling to get by,” said Council Member Mark-Viverito. “The City Council must ensure that tax dollars don’t fuel the cycle that keeps working families in poverty. This legislation seeks to tie city subsidies to good, quality jobs that will help New York City’s families move into the middle class.” The law would cover building service workers who work at new, city-subsidized developments and newly leased city work sites.
Over the past few years, individual projects in cities around the country have required prevailing wages be paid to workers in permanent jobs at subsidized developments, but no citywide policies had been implemented before Pittsburgh’s, according to 32BJ SEIU.