What had been a labor issue turned into a religious cause today, as around 150 people gathered across the street from a large Larimer development to push Pittsburgh City Council toward approval of prevailing wage legislation.
Pointing out that Martin Luther King Jr. was killed while in Memphis backing a campaign to win better wages for sanitation workers, a faith-heavy dozen speakers used his holiday to frame legislation aimed at protecting wages for hotel, janitorial, cafeteria and grocery store workers as a civil rights issue.
"What better way to honor him than to be out here?" asked Rev. John Welch, president of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network, which organized the rally. "We're not thinking about weather. We're thinking about justice."
A bill before council would compel tenants of large developments that get city aid to pay certain workers rates equal to the average for their peers in the city. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl vetoed the same bill on Dec. 31, and has introduced a competing version, but his stance was panned today.
"Unfortunately, this justice-filled [legislation] was vetoed at the 23rd hour by Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl," said Rev. David Thornton, prompting the crowd to boo loudly. "It's not over 'til it's over!"
Later, in a phone interview, city Urban Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Rob Stephany said the mayor's version would meet the goals of prevailing wage legislation without stopping development.
"It's the ambiguity in [council's] bill that is the death knell of economic revitalization," Mr. Stephany said.
The original article, published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is available by clicking here.