Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
After writing an earlier article about the Pennsylvania Voter ID law, I saw another article about a Pennsylvania issue that seems a little hard to comprehend. Recently, the City of Scranton, PA decided that it could not afford to continue to honor its contractual obligations with its City Fire, Police and Public union workers. One problem with Scranton’s decision is that a Federal judge had ordered that the City must honor its obligations to the employees under the terms of a temporary injunction that he granted the employees.
“In defiance of an injunction issued in Lackawanna County Court, hundreds of city employees will open their checks today to find they were paid only minimum wage for their work. Amid Scranton’s ever-deepening financial crisis, Mayor Chris Doherty said his administration is going forward with a plan to unilaterally slash the pay of 398 workers to the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour with today’s payroll, insisting it is all the city can afford. That will likely earn administration officials an appointment with Judge Michael Barrasse, who granted the city’s police, fire and public works unions a special injunction temporarily barring the administration from imposing the pay cuts after a brief hearing Thursday.” Times-Tribune
I can understand that Scranton is having financial difficulties, but defying a Federal court order does not seem to be a reasonable response by the Mayor of Scranton. According to the Times-Tribune article linked above, the financial difficulties have been worsened by political squabbles between the Mayor and City Council on just how to raise and/or borrow more revenue.
“The mayor and council remain at odds over the adoption of an updated Act 47 recovery plan. Mr. Doherty has proposed a 78 percent property tax increase over three years, along with a hike in the garbage fee. However, council has refused to pass it and wants the mayor to consider alternative revenue sources.City officials say without a recovery plan, banks won’t provide the financing the city needs to cover a $16.8 million gap in 2012 budget, and without the borrowing, the city will soon run out of money.”
Without filing for Bankruptcy, how does the City of Scranton think they have the unilateral legal authority to change the terms of collective bargaining contracts? If the employment contracts changes are upheld, how long will underpaid Fire, Police and City workers stay on their jobs? How will public employees in Scranton and elsewhere react if the unilateral changes are allowed to stay? How long would you stay on the job if your contract was unilaterally changed without your approval? The article linked above also suggests that Scranton is close to defaulting on its health care benefit insurance bill.
How long will Scranton have before Gov. Corbett tries to step in under Act 47 and attempt to take over the day-to-day operations of Scranton, like he tried in Harrisburg? US News What would you do if you were the Mayor of Scranton? What would you do if you were Judge Barrasse? Most importantly, what will happen to Dunder Mifflin if Scranton, PA goes under?