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Pittsburgh: City voters OK construction jobs referendum

Wednesday, November 03, 1999

By Timothy McNulty, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A proposal to guarantee Pittsburgh residents jobs at city construction sites -- rejected by City Council in May -- was resurrected yesterday when city voters approved a ballot question on the measure.

 
    More on the election:

Please visit PG Online's Election '99 page.

 
 

The plan, called "Pittsburgh Works" by its sponsor, Councilman Sala Udin, will require 35 percent of all jobs at city construction projects costing more than $200,000 to go to residents. The requirement will apply whether the project was paid for with city money or other funds.

In complete but unofficial returns, 62 percent of the voters approved the referendum. Barring a legal challenge or other legislation quashing the proposal, City Council will have to pass a bill that implements it.

Council voted 5-3 to reject "Pittsburgh Works" this spring. But just as he did with the Citizen Police Review Board -- another Udin plan that city voters approved in a 1997 referendum after it was jettisoned by council -- Udin led a petition drive to take his proposal straight to city residents, and it worked.

"People heard all of the arguments and dismissed as bogus claims that it was illegal," Udin said of his proposal last night. "The bottom line was it makes sense. With all those tax dollars going to the major developments around town, having 35 percent of the jobs go to city residents is a darn fair proportion."

Udin initially devised "Pittsburgh Works" -- which he first proposed about a year ago -- to get city residents, minorities and women jobs on the stadium and convention center construction projects.

The original bill contained hiring requirements for minorities and women of 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively, but the version that passed yesterday dropped those requirements to nonbinding goals instead.

It is not clear how the plan will affect the stadium and convention center construction projects, which are largely funded with state money. Two state senators have proposed legislation that would prohibit municipalities from imposing residency requirements for workers on construction projects that are paid for with state funds.

Udin's plan was vigorously opposed by area labor union leaders this year, who said "Pittsburgh Works" was unfair to union members who live in the suburbs.

They also said the plan didn't recognize that construction workers regularly travel long distances for work and rarely work close to home.



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