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Defying a court injunction baring the City of Scranton from slashing the pay of its 398 city workers, Scranton's mayor has unilaterally decided to drop all public workers' pay to the federal minimum wage.

The Times-Tribune reports:

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.

Mr. Doherty, who did not attend the hearing, said afterward he understands and respects Judge Barrasse's perspective, but the city lacks the cash to meet the full payroll.

The union's attorney, Thomas Jennings, has vowed to pursue a contempt citation if the city fails to honor the workers' contracts. Jennings argued before the court that the Fair Labor Standards Act demands city workers be paid according to the terms of their collective bargaining agreement, and a county judge, in granting the injunction, wondered aloud whether the city could indeed unilaterally change such terms.

Scranton's financial crisis has yet to be resolved, in part, due to an impass between the mayor and the city council on exactly what the municipality's economic recovery plan should look like.

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.

Local budgetary errors and the general recession aside, some of the blame for what is occurring in Scranton can be placed squarely upon the shoulders of House Republicans, who have continuously blocked President Obama's jobs plan, a plan which would extend aid to the states and could help shore up precisely the type of budgetary crisis happening in Scranton.

As it stands, we now have a situation in which a rogue mayor is planning to pay emergency personnel and police officers $7.25 an hour.

An entirely unacceptable and untenable situation.

Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG

Originally posted to Writing by David Harris Gershon on Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 09:10 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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