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Philadelphia Union Lawyers Secure Hard-won Victory for Pennsylvania Public Employees Deprived of Pay During Budget Clashes

December 30, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - December 2009; Philadelphia union-side labor law firm Willig, Williams & Davidson secured a significant victory for state workers on Dec. 28, 2009, when a majority of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the Fair Labor Standards Act requires the state government to continue paying covered employees timely wages regardless of whether a state budget has been adopted. In a 6-1 decision penned by Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, the court rejected the Rendell administration’s contention that Pennsylvania’s constitution prevents the commonwealth from paying state employees during a budget impasse. Willig, Williams & Davidson labor and employment lawyers Alaine Williams, Amy Rosenberger, Bruce Ludwig and John Bielski represented Council 13 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Local 668 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Federation of State Cultural and Educational Professionals (FOSCEP) Local 2382 in the long-fought lawsuit.

Willig, Williams & Davidson lawyers had been fighting the Rendell administration on behalf of public employees for years, as workers suffered through what had become a yearly ritual of threatened furloughs and payless paydays when budget negotiations dragged on after the end of the state’s fiscal year. Most recently, the commonwealth required 75,000 employees to work up to 22 days without pay after its fiscal year ended on June 30, 2009, without a new budget.

“We are thrilled to obtain vindication for the tens of thousands of state employees who were used as pawns in a political power struggle over the state budget,” said Williams. “This decision is a major victory for public employees, who have worked without pay and continued to face doing so each year as the state legislature and the governor’s office squabbled over the budget and the Rendell administration threatened furloughs and withheld wages.”

In delivering this crucial victory to Pennsylvania workers, the court determined that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires timely payment of wages to nonexempt employees and preempts Pennsylvania’s constitution, which conflicts with the FLSA by prohibiting the state from paying employees in the absence of a general appropriations act. Accordingly, the court held as a matter of law that the state constitution does not prohibit the commonwealth from continuing to employ and pay all FLSA nonexempt state employees in the event of a budget impasse.  

About Willig, Williams & Davidson – Willig, Williams & Davidson is one of the largest and most respected union-side labor law firms in the United States. Founded in 1979, the firm focuses on representing labor unions, employee benefit funds, individual working people and their families on a variety of legal fronts, including national, regional and local contract negotiations; dispute resolution through mediation, arbitration and litigation; tax and benefit law compliance issues; discrimination and other employment matters; advocacy for injured workers; and prepaid legal services for union members.

To read the Supreme Court's decision, click here:

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