(Photo: Steve Leonard / Courtesy of Wikicommons)
In the city of Scranton, Pennsylvania, there is now a conflict brewing between the city and its municipal workers that is reverberating with local governments and labor unions throughout the country.
As a result, all of the nearly 400 city workers — including police officers and firefighters — will now be paid $7.25 an hour. Unions that represent the city’s municipal workforce have gone to court to sue the mayor and the city.
The city cut the workers’ pay despite the fact that a court ordered them not to. But the Democratic mayor said that the city had no choice, explaining that the city had less than $150,000 in cash, with $3.4 million in vendor bills and a $16.8 million budget deficit.
As cities across the country are challenged by reduced income and difficulty in meeting their payroll obligations, the ramifications are particularly significant for African-Americans, who represent a large segment of the municipal government workforce. In fact, San Bernardino, California, has become the third city in that state to file for bankruptcy.
African-Americans are 30 percent more likely to work in the public sector than white Americans and they represent about 21 percent of the nation’s municipal workforce, compared with about 16 percent for non-Black workers, according to the University of California-Berkeley Labor Center.
In a reflection of how widespread the problem is, the country lost 636,000 public sector jobs between 2009 and 2011, according to the United States Department of Commerce.
Meanwhile, the union members in Scranton are upset they must now receive a level of pay equal to that of fast-food restaurant workers. The unions, in their lawsuit, said that the mayor violated the employment laws of the state and that the city has reneged on contractual agreement.
Doherty insists that his hands are tied and the city has no resources to restore the workers’ pay to their previous level.
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