SCRANTON, PA — How would you like to show up at work, open your paycheck and discover your employer has involuntarily cut your paycheck to just $7.25? That was the scenario that played out this week in Scranton, Pennsylvania after the city ran out of funds and Mayor Chris Doherty had to make a quick decision.
Employees on Friday ranging from fire fighters and police officers to secretaries and public works officers discovered they had involuntarily taken pay decreases to minimum wage levels. Even Mayor Doherty watched as his pay dropped to only a fraction of its original amount.
The city of Scranton has fallen apart since its population began decreasing at the end of World War II. In recent months the city council and the mayor’s office have fought over how to balance a failing budget that now includes a $16.8 million gap.
Doherty for his part wanted to raise taxes while the city council wanted to borrow money which would lead to high interest payments.
When asked why he would cut employee wages without notice Doherty responded:
“I’m trying to do the best I can with the limited amount of funds that I have. I want the employees to get paid. Our people work hard — our police and fire — I just don’t have enough money and I can’t print it in the basement.”
After paying his employees just $7.25 per hour the city had only $5,000 left in the bank and while it received more funds later in the day it was still short of the $1 million it owes to nearly 400 workers who received only minimum-based paychecks.
On Monday morning the firefighters union plans to ask a judge to hold Doherty in contempt.
Speaking to NPR firefighter John Judge said he received only $600 in his paycheck:
“Don’t know how I’m going to pay bills at home. I may be able to stave it off for a little while. [The] kids aren’t going to be able to do certain activities this summer — maybe we’re not going to be able to go on vacation.”
ThinkProgress notes that the federal minimum wage has not been raised since 2006 which further compounds the difficulties faced by Scranton employees.
As Scranton has continued to bleed money the cities unions over the last decade have continued to ask for increased pay, taking their wage lawsuits all the way to the Supreme Court.