Jul 16, 2012
The cuts demanded of Detroit city workers by the city’s “consent agreement” with the State of Michigan are about to be imposed.
The cuts include a 10% across-the-board wage cut, higher health care costs, 2600 new layoffs coming on top of the 2400 cut in the last three years – and changes in work rules that will let the city dump the work of those cut onto the workers who are left. The plan also reduces pension and overtime pay, and cuts vacation time in half.
These cuts to workers’ livelihood can only have dire consequences for the city’s population. The cuts will result in more closings of rec centers and parks; more elimination of garbage pickup, public lighting, and police and fire protection.
The only ones celebrating are the big companies and the banks. The money wrung from the workers will help continue the huge tax breaks and subsidies given to GM, Ford, Compuware, Quicken Loans and Blue Cross, among others. The big developers, including those connected with the gentrifying area around Orchestra Hall, will gain more support for pushing workers out of large areas of the city – the center of the city running up five miles or so from the river, and running a somewhat smaller stretch going east along the river.
In order to hand out the tax breaks, the city went deeply in debt – which is why the single biggest item in the budget last year went to pay the banks to service city debts – more than 600 million dollars. That doesn’t count the money the city lost in a complicated gamble on interest rates it made with the banks, which was supposed to save the city money, but instead caused it to cough up hundreds of millions more to the banks.
The city pays even more because the credit rating agencies like Moody’s – closely tied to the banks – lowered Detroit’s rating, pushing up the interest it must pay.
Those credit ratings are the supposed “neutral” measure, to be used to impose still more cuts on city workers for at least the next three years – if not longer.
The city and state brought out their biggest guns, hoping to terrify workers, to convince them there is nothing they can do about the cuts.
Not true! Yes, there is nothing workers can do, if they keep playing by the rules the city, the state, the big companies and the banks set. But those rules are stacked against the workers.
Who says workers have to give the city the work it wants – not under slave labor conditions. No, no, no!
City workers have certainly shown determination up until now, voting down concessions demands, refusing in some cases to reopen contracts. A few leaders of the city’s unions, like John Riehl of AFSCME Local 207, have tried to organize a wider opposition. Neighborhood groups and other organizations have made it downright uncomfortable for the mayor and the governor.
There is a real opening to make a fight. If city workers do decide to mobilize, they can create enormous problems. And they could pull other workers and the city’s population right behind them – making this a very hot summer indeed for those who think they can trample all over us.
The ball is now in the workers’ court! Time to slam it back in officialdom’s face!