Impact Of The Great Recession - Scranton, Pennsylvania

People In Scranton Felt Like Rioting

Striking teamsters and the police. Minnesota, June 1934.
Striking teamsters and the police. Minnesota, June 1934. | Source

Minimum Wage For ALL?

Many people in America felt that the Recession of 2008 - 2010 lasted until 2012 and even longer. For some US cities, this was decidedly true. While we heard that certain cities would go bankrupt without bailouts and tax increases, Scranton PA leaders were serious about their plight. In July 2012, the Mayor of the City slashed all city worker's wages to $7.25 (minimum wage) without notice. This included the city's hardworking firefighters and police officers.

It was a nightmare of existence for workers that far out-worked their wages, but suddenly could no longer support their families. Their plight was equal to that of laid-off senior citizens (55+ years) that work as independent contractors, putting in 12 - 14 hour days, while making less than minimum wage.

America, in some corridors, was a good place to starve to death.

Job Listings Increased 8000% from 2006 through 2015

Notice spikes in job listings in 2009, 2011, and 2015 during the Obama Administration.
Notice spikes in job listings in 2009, 2011, and 2015 during the Obama Administration. | Source

Equality Followed by Legal Action

This was all too much equality forced on a population of workers not ready to accept it. Attorney Thomas Jennings took up the case for three outraged labor unions in Scranton. These unions represented the protective services, especially firefighters and police officers, members of a growing job market that encouraged other industry sectors as well:

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 2305

The country had been struggling to develop these aerospace jobs and had finally received a boost from the success of SpaceX delivering goods to the ISS during the first half of 2012, Google sponsoring Lunar Landers to hit the moon ahead of schedule in early 2013, asteroid mining by 2015, and several other projects.

In July 2012, these workers received a slap in the face and a punch to the midsection. They had trained long hours and had spent money on education to become engineers, technicians, and other professionals, and now they could make only the wages of a high school student at a concessions stand in a summer job.

Old Supreme Court Chamber in the United States Capitol.
Old Supreme Court Chamber in the United States Capitol. | Source

Effects of Wage Reboot and SNAFU

Mayor Chris Doherty was charged for contempt of court at the county level for enacting the wage cuts to workers under contracts with the city. This included 398 non-federally funded individual employees. He planned to pay back wages in the future. But in fact, Doherty also cut benefits to disabled workers covered by union agreements. Some of those people would become homeless as well as disabled. Charges were proposed at the Federal and state Workers' Compensation levels as well.

Some people blamed the Barack Obama administration for naming a large number of areas in Pennsylvania "Tax Free" Zones, in which local governments can no longer collect taxes. As of July 1, 2012 Scranton was operating a $17 million deficit with about $133,000 funds available to pay three-and-a-half million dollars in bills due immediately (reference: Amy Archer, Yahoo Contributor Network, 7/10/2012).

Would the power stay on despite severe wage cuts?
Would the power stay on despite severe wage cuts? | Source

Financial Problems In Scranton

The Mayor of Scranton blamed the City Council for cutting his budget. He also complained of a $190,000 payment due to Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, suggesting that health insurance costs too much.City representatives reported that the machinists/aerospace union represented only clerical workers. Is that justification? (Reference: The Columbus Dispatch, 7/12/2012)

The wage slashing did not immediately aid payment of the $3 to $4 million owed in City bills.

The Scranton city employees' payroll is about $1,000,000 biweekly, with no additional tax influx to help pay it until August 2012. There was not enough money to pay the July 20 payroll.

In a major SNAFU of cash raising, the Mayor planned to sell the city's storm-water conveyance system to the Scranton Sewer Authority for over $5,000,000. Unfortunately, the SSA already owned it (Reference: The Times-Tribune).

Scranton, Pennsylvania: Eastern PA

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What Jobs Were Advertised At this Time?

While this wage slashing and starvation were occurring, the City of Scranton (Pennsylvania's Progressive City) advertised these jobs, below.

City Human Resources Mission:

To help city departments attract, motivate, retain, manage, and develop
qualified and productive employees.

Out of 5,941 jobs listed via Internet for Scranton on 7/12/2012, no jobs were listed for city workers on major search engines or on the city website. However, the link for sending work applications was still operational. Jobs for city workers began appearing again in online job postings by Fall 2012.

There were not enough non-city jobs to help the 398 workers whose wages were slashed in July 2012 (see below).

Non-City Jobs In Scranton In Highest Demand 2012 - 2016

  1. Registered Nurses - Licensed RNs, LPNs - 1,000 jobs, requiring education and licensing.
  2. Truck Driver - Owner-operator or Company - About 235 jobs, not enough to cover the 398 people whose wages were slashed. Would also require training and a CDL.
  3. Physical Therapists
  4. Engineers - Including aerospace engineers and technicians.
  5. Occupational Therapists
  6. Sales related positions - Retail sales persons, cashiers, sales clerks.
  7. Administrative Assistants
  8. University of Scranton jobs - A private Jesuit school. 'We are guided by the 2010-2015 Strategic Plan, "Go and Set the World on Fire..."' -- About 60 instructional and other jobs.

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The City of Scranton was hit hard by the Recession. About $300 million in Stimulus Funds was invested under Mayor Doherty for building projects and Downtown Revitalization, but the city workers suffered.

© 2012 Patty Inglish

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