Apr 28, 2003
Shortly after taking office, Michigan's new Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, announced that she had inherited a budget deficit from her Republican predecessor. Therefore, so she said, she had no choice but to demand concessions from state workers. She threatened to cut out 2000 jobs if she didn't get $4100 a year in wage and benefit concessions from each worker.
Workers were not pleased to hear this – to say the least. And so they began to express their displeasure in various ways.
In mid-April, they organized a noon-time demonstration outside the main Detroit state office building. At its fullest, the demonstration counted about 450 workers. All told, probably 700 workers took part, since there was a constant flow of people coming for awhile, then leaving when their lunch break was over, only to be replaced by others doing the same thing. Although the protest was organized by members of the UAW at the state offices, workers from other unions attended – as did some "exempt" workers and retirees.
Judging by the chants and the noise that workers made, it was a militant protest. A few workers were overheard saying that maybe they could give up some concessions – but they hadn't heard of any yet that they could live with. But for most of the demonstrators, "No Concessions, No Way!" seemed to catch their mood just fine. With other demonstrators chiming agreement, one worker said, "This is what union is all about. The grass roots."
Of course, this demonstration by itself isn't enough to stop the concessions drive. But it certainly is a start – and an important one. The governor, herself, acknowledged this when she was asked by a reporter about the protest and said that she certainly would begin to look for other places from which to make up the budget deficit.
No one should put any confidence in the promises of a politician. But it's interesting to note that Granholm said what she did only after the demonstration. She obviously will be trying to gauge just how determined the workers are. Many state workers understand, as one worker wrote, "If we give now it will never end." And state workers have the means to show her that they are sticking by their position: "No Concessions, No Way!"