Employees of the city of Scranton, Pennsylvania have seen their salaries cut to minimum wage as the mayor struggles with problems with the budget. The employees hope that a judge reinstates their paychecks in full though. The mayor, Chris Doherty, had to cut all city employee pay, even his own, this past Friday. He said that the city, which is the sixth-largest in the state, is broke because of a block enforced by City Council of the mayor’s proposed tax increase.
Doherty had to let 400 police officers, public works employees and firefighters about the doomsday plan. The plan prompted a judge from Lackawanna County to order the city to pay full wages to employees. The judge cited that the reduction in pay is a violation of the city employee contracts. Just a couple of hours after the order from the judge the pay envelopes were sent out to employees and the checks were still light.
“They are now going to have to throw their bills in a hat and randomly pick what gets paid on time.”
- John Judge, President of Scranton’s Firefighters Union
“This needs to be resolved,” Scranton firefighter and president of the local firefighters union John Judge said. “My members are getting a check for $7.25 an hour. These are people that are the head of their households. They have mortgages. They have other living costs. They are now going to have to throw their bills in a hat and randomly pick what gets paid on time.”
Lawyers for the city’s workers’ unions were planning to attend court on Tuesday to request that the judge hold Doherty in contempt of court for not following the injunction. The move by Doherty also cut overtime, disability and worker’s compensation. Scranton has struggled with budget problems for years now but everything exploded when the City Council blocked the plan by Doherty to raise taxes. The increase in taxes was an effort to cover a shortfall of $16.8 million. The City Council instead chose to borrow money to cover the shortfall in the budget.
“The mayor is trying to strong-arm the council into doing what he wants, but it’s the city’s employees that are paying the price,” Judge said. Judge also said that employees in his department saw their checks decrease from $1,500 every two weeks following deductions to a $600 gross pay. “This is not a case of no cash. It’s a cash-flow problem.”
Employees of the city were given only eight days’ notice of the cuts. Doherty also said that the city has just $5,000 left in its accounts.
“The employees are the ones in the middle of this battle between the mayor and the council,” said Sam Vitris, president of the public works union. “We’ve had four or five recovery plans over the years and none of them seemed to have worked. The stalemate between them has led the city to run out of money.”