The Spark

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

New Attacks on State Workers in Michigan

Aug 1, 2011

Layoff notices were just announced by the Michigan Budget Director that could idle 2,500 state employees as of October 1, 2011. A spokesperson said this was part of “contingency plans” being drawn up to cover 145 million dollars in “labor cost savings” that were “built into” the 2011-12 budget that starts October 1st.

In other words, it’s an extortion threat aimed at forcing workers to go along with new concessions the state is demanding. This attack is the latest outrage from a state government that for decades has cut state worker jobs, pay and benefits while also slashing services to the population.

So far this year, Michigan’s executive branch has spent 64% of its budget on private contracts with corporations. Certainly the logical place to look for money in a budget shortfall would be the area with the biggest expenditures! The state hires contract employees to do the work “in house.” Huge savings would flow from cutting out the profits of the corporate contractors.

Or here’s another idea. If the state needs more money, take it away from the gigantic 1.8 billion dollars in new tax cuts the state just gave to corporations.

But, NO, the state intends that workers pay for those corporate profits with their own wages and jobs.

That was the whole point of decades of state employee concessions. In the early 1980s there were 78,000 state workers. Now the state workforce is 47,100. Piling more work on fewer workers is saving the state more than a billion dollars every year, a billion they’ve already given away to business. The state workforce, on the other hand, has lost more than 10% of their income to inflation since 1991.

State workers hired after 1997 get no guaranteed pension. This is another half a billion dollars every year workers lose.

In the words of one union worker: “Agreeing to concessions does not save jobs. It only ensures they will be back for more.”

And the state is coming for more. The governor asked legislators to vote after the summer recess on revoking retiree healthcare for anyone hired after 1997. For those hired before 1997, the politicians demand a 4% pay cut or a worker’s pension will be frozen and that person thrown into a 401K plan.

Why should workers stand quietly by while the state steadily lowers their standard of living? State workers do all the work providing services the state is obligated to provide. This gives the workers the power they need to protect themselves.