House Republicans move the goalposts on helping solve Detroit’s financial crisis by extorting labor unions


Oh, that’s rich

Michigan House Republicans are in a tight spot. With concessions made by every party swept up in Detroit’s municipal bankruptcy and a deal in place that mostly preserves retiree pensions and the Detroit Institute of Arts’ priceless art collection, the only hurdle remaining is the state ponying up $350 million. Given how much money they’ve essentially stolen from the city by withholding promised revenue sharing, it’s a small price to pay. The state cannot take over cities with Emergency Managers and then tell them they are on their own, much as they would love to do just that.

So, rather than coming to the table and doing the right thing, Republicans have elected to move the goalposts and attempt to blame city labor unions if the deal they are attempting to scuttle does work out:

Unions representing City of Detroit employees must put up cash toward the Detroit bankruptcy settlement before the Legislature will vote on a proposed $350-million state contribution toward settling the case, House Speaker Jase Bolger said Friday.

Bolger, R-Marshall, told the Free Press it’s up to the unions to come up with proposals for how much they should contribute to the so-called “grand bargain,” but “it should be material and it should be reflective of what everyone else is doing.”

Union leaders said they were shocked by Bolger’s demand, which is the latest wrinkle and apparent complication in ongoing efforts to settle the largest Chapter 9 bankruptcy in the nation’s history.

The boards of the city’s two pension funds have agreed to settlements under which police and fire retirees would suffer no cuts to their monthly checks but lose some of their cost-of-living adjustments, while retirees of the General Retirement System would have their monthly checks cut by 4.5%

But those amounts are contingent on a complex deal designed to protect pensioners while preventing a sell-off of Detroit Institute of Art treasures, which certain city creditors want to liquidate.

The assumption here is that the workers haven’t given enough. However, this issue doesn’t involve unionized city workers. They have given countless concessions over the years, something nobody can dispute. This issue involves retired city workers, people who were promised a pension. The pensions are protected by the state constitution and it is illegal to diminish them. The unions that Bolger is attempting to extort aren’t a separate entity; they ARE the city workers. It isn’t the unions AND the workers. It’s the unions OF workers and those workers have already made concessions.

It’s time for Republicans in our legislature to stop playing games and to stop attempting to vilify the city workers who played no role in the creation of Detroit’s financial crisis. They are, in fact, victims of the crisis, not perpetrators. This transparent effort to make the unions responsible for the failure of our state legislators to live up to their commitments is odious and offensive. The state claims that it is responsible for cities — which are, indeed, a creation of the state – but now wants to be relieved of their fiduciary duty to be part of resolving the financial crises they played a role in creating.

That’s not the Michigan Way.