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Businessman Skeptical Of Councilman's Unique Idea To Increase Minimum Wage

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- West Coast cities like San Francisco and Seattle are raising their mandatory minimum wage to $15 an hour, but city Councilman Corey O'Connor says a similar move won't fly in Pittsburgh.

"I think we should take small steps at this," said O'Connor. "Obviously, we want the minimum wage to go up."

So, O'Connor is asking businesses to consider a less dramatic jump -- on a voluntary basis.

As an incentive, the city would design and post a free bus shelter ad for businesses that raise employee pay from the state-mandated minimum wage of $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.

"This is a great incentive to do it, and not only that, we'll continue to talk about you because you took a lead in going from $7.25 all the way up to $10.10 or higher," O'Connor said.

The city is allotted space on some 200 bus shelters and the ads would acknowledge those businesses that have opted to pay their employees more. He says those ads would be designed by Lamar Advertising for free.

"It costs us nothing. That's the best part," O'Connor added.

Jeff Cohen, the owner of Smallman Street Deli in the Strip District, already pays his employees above the minimum wage, but is sour on O'Connor's idea.

"Giving free advertising to businesses in this instance won't do any good," said Cohen.

As chairman of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, Cohen says pay increases for at many small businesses would force employers to cut jobs or employee hours and increase the cost of their goods and services.

He also says the city shouldn't be involved.

"In general, they should mind their own business," said Cohen. "No small business wants more government intervention period."

But O'Connor emphasizes that the program is voluntary. No one is required to raise the minimum wage, but the city will reward those that do.

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