City workforce files class action suit against Scranton for cutting salaries to minimum wage

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Civil service workers in Scranton, Pa., still reeling from having their pay slashed en masse to the minimum wage, have filed a class action lawsuit against the beleaguered city and its mayor, who defied a judge’s order not to cut salaries.

The suit was filed by six Scranton police officers and firefighters in a Pennsylvania federal court Tuesday afternoon, but it covers them and "all other persons similarly situated,” saying that the collective action was against a violation from the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“The law is clear. You cannot violate a workers contract,” Thomas Jennings, an attorney who is representing three Scranton civil service unions, told as he was preparing Monday to file multiple suits against the city and its Mayor Christopher Doherty.

Doherty cut everyone's pay -- including his own -- on Friday down to the state minimum of $7.25 per hour, saying the state's sixth-largest city is broke because the City Council blocked his proposed tax increase in a 2012 budget proposal.

The salary cuts are the latest in a long-standing stalemate between the mayor and the City Council, with the town’s employees stuck in the middle.

“This is a case where our local politicians can’t get it together,” Jennings said. “It’s not that they don’t have the money. It’s that he [Doherty] doesn’t want to get the money needed.”

Mayor Doherty has not responded to numerous requests from for comment.

Also filed in federal court on Tuesday was a lawsuit on behalf of 10 retired Scranton cops and firefighters out on disability leave who had their benefits reduced.

A complaint petition was also filed in Lackawanna County Court arguing that Doherty had violated a judge’s order barring the Mayor from cutting wages.

The city of Scranton has battled budget woes for the past two decades, registering under the Distressed Municipalities Act, but the problems reached a boiling point after the City Council blocked Doherty's plan to raise taxes to cover a $16.8 million shortfall, opting instead to borrow money to cover the budget gap.

“Scranton is infamous as being economically depressed,” Anthony Figliola, vice president of Empire Government Strategies and former deputy supervisor for Brookhaven, N.Y., where he oversaw 500 employees and a $200 million budget, told

“The mayor is calling them [city council] on their bluff, but at the expense of the taxpayers. There’s a lot of things that could be done that they just aren’t doing," Figliola said.