"I own a house in the city, two children, wife, we have car payments, we have house payments. We have utility bills. We have to pay them all, and it’s not going to be easy to do on this kind of money."
Robert Pugliese has worked for the Department of Public Works in Scranton, PA for 26 years. He made $19/hour. Now he makes $7.25/hour.
Every city employee in Scranton, including police and firefighters, saw their paychecks slashed to minimum wage last Friday. Mayor Chris Doherty says the city’s financial situation is so dire that the town only had $5,000 even after paying their employees minimum wage. Doherty has indicated he wants to raise taxes to bring in more revenue, but the City Council blocked his proposal.
To put the wage cut into perspective, Robert would make more money from unemployment benefits than his current paycheck, according to the CBS report.
Last week, a judge ordered the town to continue paying full wages to the town employees. The mayor violated the judge’s order; a lawyer representing three unions is now filing a motion to hold the mayor in contempt.
The bottom 60 percent of households have actually lost income since 1983 (while the top five percent of households took in 82 percent of all the income gains since 1983).
Adjusting for inflation, minimum wage earnings now are lower than they were in 1968.
At $7.25 an hour, your pre-tax income is $15,080/year. The federal poverty level for a family of four, like Robert’s family, is $23,050/year. If Robert is the sole provider for his family, his employer of 26 years has just put him and his family in poverty.
This is why unions exist. Workers need a resource to stand up for fair compensation. 62 percent of Robert’s income is now gone. Scranton has been "financially distressed" for the past 20 years. These draconian wage cuts are nothing but a band-aid for the town’s woes. [photo via CBS News]