Unions representing civil servants in the city of Scranton, Pa., are girding for battle after the mayor announced recently that he would be cutting pay for police, firefighters, garbage collectors and other public workers to minimum wage.
The unions' attorney, Thomas Jennings, told the Scranton Times-Tribune Tuesday that they would be filing a lawsuit against Mayor Chris Doherty in federal court under the Fair Labor Standards Act accusing the city of failing to pay wages on time and failing to pay overtime.
The lawsuit will be among several legal actions the unions may take after Doherty made the announcement last Friday that the city's 398 workers would be paid $7.25 an hour because the city was running out of money.
The Times-Tribune, quoting City Business Manager Ryan McGowan, reported that as of Monday the city had $133,000 in cash, but owed $3.4 million in vendor bills. One of those bills was health insurance, McGowan said.
Jennings said the unions also will again ask a local judge to hold Doherty in contempt of court for violating a judge's order to pay workers their full wages.
Scranton is among a number of U.S. cities struggling to pay their bills amid rising labor costs. Earlier this month, Stockton, Calif., became the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy protection from creditors.
Scranton's mayor and the city council have been locked in a dispute over how to raise money in a city that has steadily lost population over the past 50 years and has been hit hard by the real estate slump and the Great Recession that followed. Doherty has argued that the city needs to increase taxes, but council members want to find other ways to raise money. Doherty is a Democrat. The city council is comprised of Democrats.