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Detroit Plans To Move Against Its Unions

From the Wall Street Journal:

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, right, presented his budget to City Council last week.

Detroit Moves Against Unions

Mayor and Schools Chief Leverage State Law to Force Change, Close Budget Gaps

April 18, 2011

DETROIT—A new state law has emboldened the Detroit mayor and schools chief to take a more aggressive stance toward public unions as the city leaders try to mop up hundreds of millions of dollars in red ink.

Robert Bobb, the head of the Detroit Public Schools, late last week sent layoff notices to the district’s 5,466 salaried employees, including all of its teachers, a preliminary step in seeking broad work-force cuts to deal with lower enrollment.

Earlier last week, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing presented a $3.1 billion annual budget to City Council in which he proposed higher casino taxes and substantial cuts in city workers’ health care and pensions to close an estimated $200 million budget gap.

Where are the unions marching in the streets? Are there no unions left in Detroit? (Or is the UAW now more management than a union, now that they co-own General Motors and Chrysler with Mr. Obama?)

Still, aren’t ‘casino taxes’ going to hit the poor and minorities the hardest?

Mr. Bobb, already an emergency financial manager for the struggling and shrinking public school system, is getting further authority under a measure signed into law March 17 that broadens state powers to intervene in the finances and governance of struggling municipalities and school districts. This could enable Mr. Bobb to void union contracts, sideline elected school-board members, close schools and authorize charter schools.

It sounds like Mr. Bobb should be getting Mr. Bing’s salary and job title.

Mr. Bobb, appointed in 2009 by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm and retained by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, pledged last week to use those powers to deal decisively with the district’s $327 million shortfall and its educational deficiencies. Mr. Bobb raised the possibility of making unilateral changes to the collective-bargaining agreements signed with teachers less than two years ago.

He is also expected to target seniority rights that protect longtime teachers from layoffs and give them the ability to reject certain school placements.

The Detroit Federation of Teachers will likely fight him on these issues. The union couldn’t be reached for comment.

Mr. Bing, a Democrat, doesn’t have additional authority to break union contracts and circumvent City Council, but under the new law Mr. Snyder could invest this authority in municipal chief executives such as the mayor of Detroit. That possibility, and the further threat of a state takeover, is giving Mr. Bing more clout to push for major changes.

Democrats and unions generally opposed the law bolstering power of state-appointed managers, calling it an infringement on collective-bargaining rights and violation of the principle of local elected rule. Republicans largely argue the law is the only way to keep the financially threatened city from collapse by forcing unions to scale back their costly wages and benefits amid declining revenues and escalating health-care and pension costs

But in his public comments last week, the mayor signaled that he had little time left for negotiation. He pressed council members to act on his budget proposal or prepare for a fiscal collapse.

If municipal unions fail to agree to new terms, he warned, the city’s budget gap would balloon to $1.2 billion by fiscal 2015, all but assuring the city would go into default and the state would take over.

"I’m not afraid of an emergency financial manager being named," Mr. Bing told a gathering of urban-affairs experts in Detroit last week. "Because what it does is right-sizes a lot of the obstacles you have to deal with on a day-to-day basis."

He added: "With a financial manager on the scene, he or she almost becomes God and can do whatever is necessary to bring financial stability back."

In other words, Mayor Bing is admitting that Democrat elected officials cannot handle the responsibilities of running a city.

Which of course should be clear to every sentient being by now.

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, April 18th, 2011. Comments are currently closed.

4 Responses to “Detroit Plans To Move Against Its Unions”

  1. Chase says:

    “Where are the unions marching in the streets?”

    Be patient. While this may have hit the morning news, it won’t get out to folks until they have come home from work, watched a few DVR’d episodes of “Family Guy,” cast a few dozen votes (just to stay in practice in the off-, non-election season) on his reality show, and only then hear a version of the story over a couple of brews from semi-literate Vinnie down at the Union Hall who tells him the sign painters have been mobilized.

  2. Mithrandir says:

    Here is exactly what DETROIT gets by electing Democrats almost exclusively since 1960.

    Illustrated by Goodfellas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8u5xQXHXsQ

    ….and when the money is all gone, you burn the place down and collect the insurance money.

    DEMOCRATS turning America into a 3rd World country: Detroit style: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AejwhFCOhtY

  3. proreason says:


    When unions are bustin white taxpayers, they are as strident as a red army in the streets.

    But in a chocolate city, it’s a different story.

    Gee, who could have predicted that?

  4. Rusty Shackleford says:

    If they start the long, slow crawl back up the hill to prosperity and real freedom, they might get there in about 100 years. That’s an optimistic estimate, btw.

    Whenever a private enterprise shows wealth, the greedy statists can smell it and then figure out ways to get their stained little fingers on it. The problem typically grows worse every year until–voila–you have Detroit.

    Interestingly, the name “Detroit” is from the French ‘destreit’ (“straits”) which is the old French term for “district”. They share the same etymology. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Detroit

    However, I would think nowadays, the word ‘dire’ can be aptly placed as a prefix for it..as in ‘dire straits’.

    Some day, the city may re-emerge but it’s got a long way to go. Chocolate city or not, the citizens there who want to have any respectability at all in the future will have to show an increased desire for independence from government and unions. It’s of course very sad that it all has to be so very painful. But again, it’s nothing new. Cities have risen and fallen throughout the ages for many reasons. Greed is often one near the top of the list.

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