Cut to Minimun Wage

Scranton Mayor Cuts All City Employees' Pay to Minimum Wage

The mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Chris Doherty, has controversially slashed the salary of all 398 city employees, including police and firemen, to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 hour in defiance of a judge's order, angering workers and leading to legal action.

Ten former police officers and firefighters on disability are suing the city in federal court. The disabled workers say their pay was reduced to minimum wage without the required hearing under Pennsylvania law.

In a separate federal class action suit, workers from various city departments claim Scranton's leaders violated U.S. labor law by failing to pay overtime. Both suits seek to have wages restored, back pay and attorney fees.

Doherty abruptly made the pay cut move last week, saying that it was the only way to keep Scranton solvent. According to the the cities finances, Scranton has a $16 million deficit and had just $133,000 in cash on hand as of Monday, while owing $3.4 million in bills. The Mayor put the blame on the City Council for not passing his budget, which included tax increases, saying, "If they'd gone with my budget, we wouldn't be having this discussion. . . . The bills all would have been paid because we would have had a dedicated revenue stream."

After paying workers minimum wage last week, the city reported it had only about $5000 in the bank. Since then the city has brought in more revenue, but not nearly enough to cover back wages that are estimated at over $1 million.

Given increasing media attention and a worsening problem — not to mention that city workers are now earning less than many fast-food workers — you might think the mayor and city council would be working on a resolution to the problem. But there is no indication that's happening.