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Allegheny County councilman pushes for hike in state minimum wage

Aaron Aupperlee
| Friday, April 1, 2016, 11:25 p.m.

Allegheny County Councilman Nick Futules is asking his fellow council members to urge the state to increase the minimum wage, even though county government hasn't pursued it yet.

Futules, an Oakmont Democrat and council vice president, will present to council on Tuesday a motion asking the state General Assembly to increase the minimum wage statewide to $10.15 an hour “with all deliberate speed.”

Allegheny County, however, does not have a similar policy.

“Those are things I want to look at,” Futules said about asking the county to increase its minimum wage. “I want to take baby steps. I have to take one step at a time. You just can't throw everything at council at once.”

He expects to run into resistance from the five Republicans on council. The national debate over raising the minimum wage has fractured along party lines.

Councilwoman Sue Means, a Bethel Park Republican, said she plans to vote against the motion. She worried an increase in the minimum wage would be only a temporary fix and the effect would fade when the cost of goods and services increased.

Pennsylvania's $7.25 minimum wage is the same as the federal wage. Allegheny County has no official policy setting the minimum wage for its workers above $7.25 but all of its full-time employees make more than the state rate. About 280 part-time and seasonal employees for the county make less than $10 an hour.

UPMC announced Tuesday it would increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021, a move that drew praise from Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and county Executive Rich Fitzgerald. Peduto signed an executive order in November to raise the minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour in the next six years. Fitzgerald made a similar pledge at that time.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order March 7 to pay state employees at least $10.15 an hour and has called on the Legislature to enact the wage for all workers in the commonwealth.

Council tried to raise the minimum for county employees and many of those who do business with it in 2001. The bill, pushed by then-Councilman Fitzgerald, would have raised the minimum wage for county employees to $9.12 a hour for those receiving health insurance and $10.62 an hour for those without benefits.

The bill failed to get enough votes to pass when three Democrats dropped their support at the last minute. Republicans on council at the time and several contractors and municipalities that did business with the county were opposed to the wage increase.

Council approved a resolution in 2005 supporting a proposal in Harrisburg to raise the minimum wage statewide from $5.15 to $6.15 an hour. County law requires contractors to pay prevailing wages on county contracts.

Pennsylvania raised the state minimum wage from $7.15 to $7.25 an hour in 2009.

Futules, who co-owns Futules' Harmar House, a banquet facility, said he pays his employees well above minimum wage.

“Even the high school kids,” he said.

Council could vote on the motion at Tuesday's meeting. Futules said if it looks to be controversial, he will ask for the motion to be sent to committee for further discussion.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

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