An example of the importance and necessity of unions in the U.S. was recently displayed in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where public workers' salaries were temporarily cut to minimum wage last month.
In a widely publicized decision, Scranton's mayor told public employees, including police officers and firefighters, that their salaries would be cut to $7.25 per hour. Despite a court order prohibiting the action, the mayor carried through with his plan, cutting workers' salaries in July.
This decision would have had implications for employees who sustained injuries on the job in the future, as workers' compensation benefit payments are tied to the workers' salaries prior to the injury.
Consequently, the mayor was faced with legal action pursued by three unions protecting the rights of their members, including:
• International Association of Firefighters Local 60
• Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 2
• International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 2305
According to Citizens Voice, the legal action included, "a penalty petition with the state workers' compensation commission over the minimum wages." In addition, the unions sued to have the employees' wages reinstated, with which a county judge agreed. Because Scranton's mayor failed to pay the workers their actual wages after the judge's ruling, a contempt of court claim was filed. According to court officials who spoke with The Wall Street Journal, "if found guilty, (the mayor) might have had to pay fines out of his own pocket."
A settlement agreement has now been reached between the unions and the city, whereby the workers will receive back pay for the wages they were denied, including 6 percent interest.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "City's Workers Escape Minimum Wage," John W. Miller, July 30, 2012.
Our firm handles situations in which public employees seek workers' compensation benefits. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Philadelphia union employees page or our Pennsylvania city & state employees page.