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Allegheny County Council overrides Fitzgerald veto, approves wage increase for county employees

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

Allegheny County Council voted to reverse County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s veto of a bill meant to raise the minimum wage for all hourly county employees.

At a regular meeting Tuesday, council voted 10-5 to override his veto of the minimum wage ordinance. Council initially passed the bill in early June with a 10-4 vote, but Fitzgerald vetoed it just days later.

The ordinance sets a pay floor for all hourly county employees, including full-time, part-time and seasonal workers and would raise the minimum wage for those workers to $18 an hour in 2024. The minimum would then increase by $1-per-hour for the next two years.

It will take effect on January 1, 2024.

Proponents argue it’s important to pay county employees a fair and competitive wage amid rising costs and a crowded labor market. They note the county has struggled to hire and retain employees in some parts of the government in recent years.

In a veto letter sent to council last week, Fitzgerald said he agrees with the need to pay employees a living wage but claimed that the ordinance “violates the Home Rule Charter and attempts to usurp authority of the executive branch.”

Republican Sam DeMarco and Democrats Nick Futules, Bob Macey and DeWitt Walton initially voted against the ordinance; on Tuesday they voted to uphold the veto. They were joined by Republican Suzanne Filiaggi, who missed the first vote.

The 10 votes cast to override the veto just met the two-thirds threshold needed to overcome Fitzgerald’s opposition.

“We [cannot] balance this budget on the backs of Black women and workers,” said council member Olivia Bennett, referencing similar comments she made during the initial vote and reporting from PublicSource which found that the bill would boost wages for women and Black county employees.

In a statement after the vote, Fitzgerald reiterated his issues with the ordinance.

“It’s our position that this bill clearly and plainly violates several provisions of the Home Rule Charter that place wage decisions and collective bargaining over wages within the purview of the executive branch of county government,” he said. “It’s what voters put in place over two decades ago and council can’t just change it without going back to the voters. While the outcome will not impact me or the current council, it does matter to future executives and councils.”

Fitzgerald also said he is considering legal action and may ask a judge to resolve the situation.

Attempts by County Council to override vetoes are fairly rare. Last summer, they voted to ban fracking in county parks, overriding Fitzgerald's veto — their first successful attempt at overcoming Fitzgerald's opposition.

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