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Councilman Tries to Revive Dormant Living Wage Law

Pittsburgh City Council is considering a bill that would activate a dormant, ten-year-old law to set a "living wage" minimum for all city employees.

At its committee meeting Wednesday, Council voted to hold the measure for a post-agenda meeting to discuss legal questions surrounding the bill.

Sponsoring Councilman Ricky Burgess said the legislation wouldn't enact a new law, because the state government banned living wage legislation a few years ago. Rather, he said Council must activate the old city law.

"By simply activating it, that may be the only way to get around that provision, because this was actually passed before the state passed its prohibition against the living wage," said Burgess.

He said the 2002 legislation never took effect because of a last-minute revision by City Council.

"At the n'th hour, at the very end of the bill, they put in a paragraph saying it would not be implemented by the city until the County Council passed a similar piece of ordinance," said Burgess. "County Council never passed it, so it was never activated."

However, other City Council members asked to consult the City Law Department as to the legality of bypassing state law by reviving a dead city ordinance. Councilman Bill Peduto also wanted an opinion on the legality of requiring city vendors and contractors to pay a certain wage to their employees.

"At that time, Solicitor [Jacqueline] Morrow, I believe, had a legal opinion that it was permissible for us to enact it under our own employees, people that were directly working for the city of Pittsburgh," said Peduto, "but that it was not permissible for us to do so for secondary employment."

Peduto is the only current Council member also in office during the 2002 session. He voted in favor of the amendment to the living wage bill that attached its implementation to the County. Peduto said he'd support the new measure if it's legal, and if it doesn't cost the city too much money.

When the living wage law was originally set to take effect in 2002, it would have required a $9.12 per hour minimum wage for insured city employees and contracted workers, such as security guards. For employees without health insurance, the minimum wage would have been $10.62 per hour.

According to the cost-of-living adjustments contained in the original legislation, the law would require insured workers to be paid $11.18 per hour in 2011; uninsured workers would receive $12.68 per hour.