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County executive vetoes wage increase for Allegheny County employees

The Allegheny County Courthouse in Downtown Pittsburgh.
Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald vetoed a bill meant to raise the minimum wage for all hourly county employees.

County Council passed the bill in early June with a 10-4 vote.

The bill would raise the minimum wage for hourly full-time, part-time and seasonal county employees to $18 an hour in 2024. It would then increase by a dollar-per-hour to $19 in 2025 and $20 in 2026.

The bill’s supporters say it’s important to pay county employees a competitive wage amid rising costs and a crowded labor market. State and federal minimum wage has stalled at $7.25 an hour, though many hourly county employees make more than that.

Fitzgerald argued that the ordinance “violates the Home Rule Charter and attempts to usurp authority of the executive branch.”

“Ultimately, this veto is about the separation of powers set up in the county’s Home Rule Charter,” he wrote in a veto letter sent to council. “When this government was set up and approved by the voters, it did not give the legislative body the authority to set pay rates. If council now believes that should change, then they must follow the process outlined in the Home Rule Charter and Optional Plans Law to do so.”

Fitzgerald said he agrees with the need to pay employees a living wage and touted his past work on County Council advocating for living wages for social workers.

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“I do differ with council on the pay rate of $18 an hour for seasonal workers,” he said. “These employees, many in high school or college, who work the snack bar at our pools and golf courses are paid $12 to $15 an hour and are a different category of worker. These positions encourage hard work, but also provide life skills that will benefit these employees in their career development, but they are not full-time positions.”

He added that the increase would necessitate “substantial raises” for full-time employees.

“The person now making $18 an hour will expect to get a raise to $24 an hour while a person now making $22 an hour will expect to make $28 an hour and so on,” he said, noting that the estimated “compression effect” of the bill could top $30 million. Other estimates, including one provided to County Council, have put the estimate closer to $10 million.

Fitzgerald also worried the bill would impede unions’ collective bargaining power and negotiations, though local union leaders said they support the bill.

County Council president Pat Catena, who supported the bill, offered a strongly worded response to the veto.

“It is regrettable that the Chief Executive has opted to hide behind a flawed reading of the Home Rule Charter of Allegheny County, rather than taking responsibility for personally refusing to pay County employees competitive, living wages.”

Catena noted that Fitzgerald introduced a minimum wage ordinance for county employees that was defeated in 2001 and said he “extolled the virtues of his idea to legislatively establish a minimum wage for County employees on the record.”

“Now, as a lame duck Executive, that very same Rich Fitzgerald has flip-flopped on exactly this same issue. In the process, he has vindictively opted to both insult and financially disadvantage every single County employee that he claims to care about, and did so all in the name of protecting turf that will no longer even arguably be his in less than six months. I look forward to discussion and voting on a motion to override his veto.”

County Council has less than 30 days to attempt to override the veto with a two-thirds majority vote.

If council’s voting margins remain the same as when they passed the bill the first time, they could override the veto.

Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at