Unions Challenge PA Mayor’s Decision To Pay Police Officers, Firefighters Minimum Wage

Scranton, PA Mayor Chris Doherty

A trio of Pennsylvania unions is asking a federal judge to hold Scranton, Pennsylvania Mayor Chris Doherty in contempt after he defied a court order and reduced the pay of hundreds of city workers — including firefighters and police officers — to the minimum wage. A federal judge issued an injunction preventing the decrease in pay, but Doherty ignored it last Friday and reduced the pay of roughly 400 workers because he said the city was broke and could not meet its payroll obligations.

The International Association of Firefighters Local 60, the Fraternal Order of Police E.B. Jermyn Lodge 2 and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 2305 are now asking the judge to hold Doherty in contempt of court and will also file other lawsuits against the city, the Scranton Times-Tribune reports:

–A motion in Lackawanna County Court to hold the mayor in contempt, due to paying 398 city employees minimum wages in their paychecks Friday, even though a judge on Thursday and Friday ordered full wages.

–A lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Scranton under the Fair Labor Standards Act alleging the city has failed to pay wages on time and failed to pay overtime.

–Another federal complaint alleging violations of the Heart and Lung Act, because benefits of disabled police and firefighters also were cut to minimum wages without first having a required hearing.

–A penalty petition with the state workers’ compensation commission over the minimum wages.

“Pick a law. They violated it,” [Union attorney Thomas Jennings] said.

Scranton holds $133,000 in cash as of Monday, the city commissioner told the Times-Tribune, and meeting payroll requires about $1 million. The unions originally asked a judge to hold Doherty in contempt Friday before the minimum wage payments were issued, but the judge declined, saying the action would be premature. That led to the new request Monday.

As ThinkProgress has noted, Democrats in Washington proposed legislation last fall that would extend aid to cities and states to keep public workers — including firefighters, police officers, and teachers — on payroll, but Republicans repeatedly blocked those efforts.