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No one could ever have predicted that cutting the pay of Scranton, Pennsylvania public employees such as firefighters and police to minimum wage would turn out badly for the city, right? The mayor who made that genius call never could have foreseen that, after paying for a legal battle with unions representing the workers who wanted their fair pay, the city would end up paying back wages and some interest.

Luckily for the people of Scranton, the interest the city will pay workers whose pay was illegally slashed to minimum wage is relatively modest:

Mayor Christopher Doherty agreed that the city would pay approximately $750,000 in compensation owed to firefighters, police officers and public works employees, plus at least $5,100 in interest, said Tom Jennings, a lawyer for the employees' unions.

In exchange, the unions said they would drop their bid to have the mayor held in contempt of court, according to the agreement, reached Saturday and presented to a judge on Monday.

There's still an injunction against workers' pay being cut again in the future, but "Scranton officials have said they can't guarantee that they won't again slash pay if the city runs low on cash."

This story rolls together two of the big economic story lines of the past couple years: revenue-starved government and the war on public workers. In this case, the sheer ridiculous extremity of cutting police and firefighters to minimum wage, a wage a majority of people support raising for all workers, provided a bit of a public relations backlash in the war on public workers. But the deeper story, the connection between them, is that teachers and librarians and roads workers are targets because Republicans trying to get the government down to bathtub-drowning size need ways to say that government spending is illegitimate and that raising revenue, AKA wealthy people and corporations paying their fair share, is unnecessary and abusive. Republicans attack workers so that we don't pay attention to the real problems, the problems they've created. It's not news, but it's not stopping.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 01:28 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Pennsylvania.

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