Sep 2, 2013
On this Labor Day 2013, workers’ pensions are on the chopping block.
In Detroit, it’s obvious. But Detroit city workers are not the only ones whose pensions are at risk today. Proportionately, Chicago, Los Angeles and Baltimore have run up bigger debts to their public pension funds than has Detroit. Illinois is pushing to “reform” its pension system, that is, to reduce what workers get. Philadelphia has announced it cannot pay what it owes for teachers’ pensions.
Detroit is simply the battering ram; its bankruptcy is being used to set a precedent. After Detroit, no worker’s pension is safe.
It’s true the city of Detroit has run out of money – at least when it comes to what people need. For the ordinary people, the city is bankrupt and has been bankrupt a long time.
But why is the city bankrupt? Why? Because it gave away billions of dollars in tax breaks, subsidies, land and infrastructure to some of the biggest corporations and developers in the world.
Every city has done the same. And the bill is now coming due in many cities. Both parties underfunded city pension funds and gave away that stolen money to corporations and the banks.
The only answer to this catastrophe is to take that money back. Take it from the ones who got it – the capitalists and their banks.
Confronting the disastrous attack on the cities and their workforce, the unions could play a big role. They could call upon their own members and the population to fight.
Why not fight so that the resources and assets of the city be used for the workforce and the population? Not just in Detroit, but in every city and county facing the same attacks.
No matter where workers start to fight to defend themselves, they have to fight to put their hands on the wealth their labor created.
The city workers’ unions could organize their members to find out where the money went. City workers in Detroit certainly could do that. Every worker knows something about how the city works. If they put all their accumulated knowledge together, the workers could find billions upon billions of dollars. They could take apart the city’s finances – show that GM, Chrysler, Ford, the big banks, the stadiums, the Detroit Medical Center and so on owe big bucks to the city – to its workers, its retirees and its population.
City workers could show that there IS money – money that could be used to solve the problems the population and the workforce face.
The Renaissance Center in Detroit, for example, was paid for by the city, county and state in enormous tax breaks and public subsidies: when it was first built, again when GM took it over from Ford Finance, and again when GM threatened to move to the suburbs. By all rights, the city owns it. If GM and other companies want to go on occupying the RenCen, let them pay rent – to the city!
And if they refuse? The unions could organize workers to occupy those buildings and hold them until the bill is paid. Workers in the city have enough forces to do that.
The working class has the forces to occupy all those downtown buildings, paid for by the city, but “owned” by developers. Present them with a bill! Occupy their buildings until the bill is paid.
The unions could call on the workers and the population to take back this wealth and use it in the population’s interest – in every city.
But whether or not the unions do it, that’s what must be done. The workers and the population, using their own forces, have to take back the cities, use their resources to serve the population. Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia – it’s all the same.
Take back the wealth of the cities that has been stolen from us!