Hospital Employees See Wages Rise, But Burgess Says There Is Still Work To Do

Oct 11, 2016

Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess presents a one-year progress report from the city's Wage Review Committee outside Council chambers on Oct. 11, 2016.
Credit Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

One year after Pittsburgh’s Wage Review Committee released its report detailing the hardships faced by low-wage workers in the city, Councilman Ricky Burgess said there is still more work to do.

Burgess counted among the victories of the last year the unionization of workers at Allegheny General Hospital and UPMC’s pledge to raise wages for service workers to $15 per hour by 2021.

In addition, workers at four other hospitals in the Pittsburgh region will see starting wages increased by $15 per hour over the next three to five years.

The initial 2015 report called on City Council to support workers’ rights to form a union, endorse calls for a $15 per hour minimum wage and to leverage its authority in budgeting, zoning and contracting in order to incentivize employers to improve wages and working conditions.

City Council adopted the full agenda in January, but so far has not made moves to leverage its authority as a way to support workers.

“We are still exploring options of what that would actually look like,” said Marita Bradley, Chief of Staff to Councilman Burgess.

In March, UPMC Chief Human Resources Officer John Galley said the wage review committee’s recommendations didn’t influence the health care giant’s decision to raise wages. But UPMC Mercy housekeeper Josh Malloy, 25, said he doesn’t believe it would have happened without the work of the committee and the support of City Council.

“Because of the committee, AGH workers had something to bring to management, UPMC workers had something to bring to management that says hundreds of workers all across the city are struggling, including myself, and we need help,” he said.

The progress report calls on council to continue its support of organizing efforts and to pass the proposed affordable housing trust fund, a $10 million pot to be used for home repairs and rental and foreclosure assistance for low-income Pittsburghers.

Both the wage review committee and the trust fund are part of Burgess’s “City for All” agenda. The Councilman has long lamented what he calls “Two Pittsburghs:” one where luxury apartments and foodie destinations draw national headlines and another where low-wage workers struggle to get by.

“We know our eds and meds economy is booming. We’re mentioned in the papers it seems like every day,” said Majestic Lane, Deputy Chief of the city’s Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment. “But we know on the other hand that every other aspect of city livability, whether it’s food, housing, transportation, those things have an impact on workers. We know that many of our workers are negatively impacted by not making enough money to take care of their families and themselves.”