The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

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May 10, 2010

A lunchtime rally of State of Michigan workers was spirited and full of laughter despite damp weather.

More than 150 workers from different departments demonstrated – together – in front of the main State of Michigan office building in Detroit on May 7, 2010.

The need for more workers and a chance to say NO! to attacks on pay and benefits were what brought people out on this rainy day.

Michigan lawmakers have proposed taking away three% of workers’ pay – starting in October – allegedly to pay for retirement-related expenses. Lawmakers keep vaguely mentioning a new retiree healthcare fund.

The ink was barely dry on concessions shoved down union members’ throats a few months ago – a loss in pay through “banked leave time” and a new two-tier healthcare system for new hires. Already the state is back for more!

Both parties – the Democrats AND the Republicans – propose to “cut costs” by shoving high seniority workers out the door with flimsy retirement packages.

Management hopes 50% of those eligible will retire. Then, to “save money,” only a fraction of those retiring would be replaced.

In reality, DOUBLE the number of workers retiring needs to be hired!

“They keep attacking us because we keep taking it. That’s why I’m here,” said one state employee.

Chants at the rally reverberated out into the street. Passing motorists honked in support. Popular chants were: “DHS – IT’S A HOT MESS!” “We are the front line, not the bottom line!” and “Hands off My Pockets!”

For some younger workers, it was their first protest and they are looking forward to the next one.

One state worker summed it up: “You can’t just go by the number of people here today. Everyone at my office feels the same way as the people speaking out at this demonstration.”