A committee tasked by city council to look at wages of Pittsburgh's hospital service workers recommended they get a $15 minimum wage during a post-agenda meeting on Tuesday.
The wage review committee also encouraged council members to improve affordable housing and support hospital workers in their right to form a union.
Majestic Lane, director of external relations with the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group and member of the committee, said several people testified that they aren’t able to buy homes after working decades without a raise.
“It betrays the dream of Pittsburgh being a city where you can work and prosper if you work hard,” he said. “We’re talking about people who have been working hard for a long time and still haven’t been able to enjoy what many of us take for granted in our city.”
The committee heard from more than 150 service workers during two days of public hearings in October. The committee reports that raising wages would have a ripple effect, increasing tax revenues for local government.
City Council President Bruce Kraus said the report confirmed council’s suspicions. He said the committee’s recommendations will require a shift in the relationship between government and the city’s largest employers.
Councilman Ricky Burgess said there’s a deep connection between how much low wages hospital workers are paid and affordable housing in the city. He said as market rate units are built, low-wage earners have a hard time finding housing.
“Many of them who testified have to live with relatives -- with mothers, with fathers, with grandparents -- just in order to live somewhere so they can work,” he said. “We’re going to have to significantly increase affordable housing.”
The committee’s six recommendations are to:
- Endorse hospital workers’ call for a minimum industry wage of $15 an hour
- Call for employers to lower financial barriers to receiving care for hospital workers and their families
- Support workers’ right to form a union
- Encourage employers to engage employees in decision-making
- Expand and improve affordable housing
- Incentivize hospital employers to improve pay through budgeting, zoning, contracting and other means