Aug 25, 2003
After Michigan state workers organized a campaign to "just say NO!" to the state's demands for 230 million dollars in wage and benefit concessions, the new governor, Jennifer Granholm, pretended to retreat for awhile.
But her administration is back with a vengeance today, throwing up the October 1 beginning of the new fiscal year as a deadline, after which it says it must have concessions in some form.
Some administration officials have floated the idea of "banked leave time." That's a misnamed program if there ever was one – it ought to be called a work-now-get-paid-later-or-maybe-not-at-all plan. Just one more scheme among many, like all the others it's looking to rob $4,000 on average from every worker – every single year for the foreseeable future.
If workers won't agree to give up concessions – and they've made it as clear as clear can be that they don't intend to – the state says it must lay off 3,000 or more workers. In other words, it's holding an extortion threat over workers' heads: give us your wages or your jobs.
What would this mean? According to the Michigan Citizens Research Council, "Some of the layoffs could come in areas where agency operations have already been hit by early retirements and budget cutbacks. The layoffs could render some department functions ineffective to the point of being a real concern, and the state could start pulling employees out of jobs that affect public health and safety."
In other words, the state is threatening not only the wages, benefits and jobs of state workers, but also the lives of state citizens. But not all citizens, of course. What the state would try is to continue the kinds of cuts it has already made – that is, in departments like social services, public health and education that serve the population.
Today, the state employs only 36,900 non-correctional workers, compared to 65,000 in 1980. Part of the jobs cuts translated into the enormous degradation in state services (or in city and county services, since state money helps pay for some of these services). The rest of the job cuts were covered for by workers who were left doing more work.
No more! There's no reason why the state should cut a single job, or reduce a single public service. There's no reason for any worker to pick up the work of another worker whose job was cut.
The state has other resources it could tap: for example, the big property tax breaks for corporations it handed out ever since the 1990s, or the 15 billion dollars in subsidies and other tax breaks it gave to the corporations in less than 10 years.
There would be no state deficit – none at all – if governor after governor had not let the thieves who run the corporations drive away with truckfuls of money from the state treasury.
There need be no state deficit now if the governor would rescind just a part of the giveaways – or even not give away any new money, like the 115 million dollars she offered to DaimlerChrysler or the 635 million to Pfizer or the 300 million to Boeing.
Well, of course, the governor won't willingly stop handing over the state treasury to the big boys. But governors have been known to back off before when they confronted a state work force determined not to give in – all the more so if that work force attempted to rally the population with them when they fight back.
There's a battle lying ahead for state workers – one they can win.