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UPDATE: As expected, the city of Scranton, Pa., is now facing two lawsuits over the mayor's unexpected move to cut city workers' pay to minimum wage.
According to NPR, unions are also calling for Mayor Chris Doherty to be held in contempt of court.
One lawsuit was filed on behalf of 10 disabled former police officers and firefighters for the city who allege that the cut was made without a required hearing under Pennsylvania law. The second suit contends that the city failed to pay overtime, violating U.S. labor law. Both suits are asking for wage restoration, attorney fees, and back pay.
As the New York Times reports, Scranton's mayor made the pay cut (which includes the reduction of his own pay to the same rate) when the city had just $5,000 in the bank and no potential lenders on the horizon.
Tuesday, July 10: Workers unions are gearing up for a fight in Scranton, Pa., where the mayor abruptly cut the pay of 400 city employees to the federal minimum wage last week, the Associated Press reports.
Three unions—representing police officers and firefighters among others—plan to file legal action against the city after Mayor Chris Doherty took the measure to cut the pay of 400 city employees to $7.25 per hour. He defended it as a temporary step while the city tries to recover from its crushing $16.8 million deficit. Shortly thereafter, a county judge issued an injunction ordering the city to respect the pay rates in union contracts, but Doherty violated the order.
City workers were slammed with the pay cut when they received their paychecks last week. Roger Leonard, a city employee who typically earns $900 for two weeks work, told NPR that he received a check for just $340 on Friday.
The pay cut drags city employees into the middle of a feud between the mayor and the city council on how best to address the city’s dire finances. "If they’d gone with my budget, we wouldn’t be having this discussion," Doherty said to NPR in reference to his proposal to raise taxes, which was rejected by the council.
The majority of the council opposed the Doherty’s pay cuts, but the gravity of the city’s financial situation was highlighted last week when, even after paying minimum wage, the city had just $5,000 in the bank.
Scranton is one of 20 Pennsylvania cities, including Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, operating under state law for fiscally distressed municipalities, according to the Wall Street Journal. Cities across the country are facing difficult economic times. Just last month, Stockton, Calif., becomes the largest U.S. municipality to declare bankruptcy.