PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — There have been plenty of protest demonstrations and plenty of arrests at those demonstrations, focused on just what a living wage should be at UPMC facilities.

But on Tuesday, UPMC, which once challenged whether $15 per hour was feasible, announced that sum as a starting wage to be phased in to its payroll system.

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“We really felt no pressure from external sources whether it’s organizing campaigns or from the government,” said UPMC Human Resources executive John Galley. “This was really a decision that our senior leadership made together in terms of a place that we want to be.”

For workers who fought for this day, like Leslie Poston, a UPMC Presbyterian worker who makes $13 an hour, they still think efforts between unions and government worked in their favor.

“I think collectively,” she said. “It started off with a few of us and with the SEIU behind us and elected city county elected officials, yes I think it came through. They had felt the pressure, they heard us and we’re going to continue to fight.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto pledged a city government $15 per hour wage and encouraged other employers to follow suit. His chief of staff, Kevin Acklin sees it as a positive sign.

“We think this is a big day for the city of Pittsburgh,” said Acklin. “When you have the largest employer in the city recognizing the national movement for $15 an hour, which helps the lowest paid workers, that this is a substantial step forward.”

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald agrees.

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“Working with government, partnering with government, working with other leaders in the corporate community who again are willing to value workers in a way that they’re able to support their families, they’re able to live a decent lifestyle I think the mayor and UPMC have shown good leadership in moving forward with this,” Fitzgerald said.

But what about the phased in wage hikes through 2021? Why not immediately? UPMC says that would be inflationary.

“It’s not in the community’s best interest and it’s actually not market based so we try to make sure that our programs are very, very market driven, market competitive and going to fifteen dollars an hour immediately wouldn’t be competitive,” said UPMC’s John Galley.

The $15 an hour base wage will be phased in beginning in January, becoming the average service worker pay by 2019, and the minimum starting salary by 2021.

Listen to UPMC’s Senior VP & Chief Human Resources Officer speak with Marty Griffin:

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