. The following call to take part in the demonstrations of April 12 and 16 in support of Detroit city
workers is from Detroit Workers' Voice #47, April 10, 2005.
. Detroit city workers and school employees are under attack. Mayor Kilpatrick and the public school officials want to solve their budget crises through massive layoffs and wage cuts. Meanwhile public services and the school system will continue to decay.
. In early January, city officials proposed laying off 2-3,000 city workers. Already Kilpatrick has laid off about 700 workers and ended 237 vacant positions. Unionized employees are being pressured to take a 10 percent pay cut which has already been forced on nonunion employees. Kilpatrick promises he'll also go after employee benefits. Meanwhile, Detroit's already poor bus service is taking a hit, with drivers laid off and elimination of certain bus routes.
. Public school officials are also on a budget-slashing rampage. Outgoing school superintendent Burnley announced a plan to close down about half the public schools in Detroit in the next five years. Detroit public schools have been crumbling for decades. But the powers-that-be at all levels of government clearly don't care.
. What can resist this onslaught? City Council? But half of City Council sides with Kilpatrick, while the half that opposes Kilpatrick has their own plan for job and wage cuts. Only a staunch struggle of the workers can turn the tide. Unfortunately, the timid leaders of most of the city unions want to avoid a serious struggle and are vainly hoping the City Council opposition will save the day.
. Workers, poor folks and activists across metro Detroit need to rally in defense of the city and
school workers. And they need to encourage rank-and-file initiative to overcome the treachery of the
City Council opposition and the meek union officials.
Budget crisis: bipartisan plunder of the workers
. Kilpatrick tells us there's no alternative to cutbacks because there simply isn't any money available to avoid them. But this covers up what's really going on. When Kilpatrick says there's no money, he hides that the corporations are swimming in profits made off the sweat and blood of the workers. He hides that politicians like himself are dedicated to helping the rich gorge themselves further by having the masses pay the price for the budget crisis.
. Thus, while Kilpatrick, the Democrat, complains about Bush's tax breaks for the rich and cuts in
federal aid, he's behaving like Bush. Bush has no money for social programs because he wants tax
breaks for the rich and needs hundreds of billions of dollars to carry out imperialist wars in Iraq and
elsewhere. Kilpatrick says there's no money for city services, but is silent about the massive interest
payments to the banks financing city debt. He doesn't mention the fat city tax breaks to corporate
giants like GM and Compuware. And Kilpatrick touts privatization where the city treasury is
plundered by businesses doing work formerly done by city workers. Indeed, just as Bush says tax
breaks for the rich will trickle-down to the poor by creating jobs, so he and former Democratic
mayors of Detroit have preached the myth that city tax breaks to corporations will mean local jobs.
Is the City Council on the workers' side?
. The mayor's anti-worker attacks are getting open support from four of the eight City Council members. But there are four other City Council members who are posturing against the Mayor's plans. These four have put out their own "people's agenda" that allegedly attends to the needs of the masses. But this is a lie. In reality, the opponents of the Mayor on the Council have an alternate scheme to attack city workers and services. Here's a few examples.
. Councilwoman Sharon McPhail told the conservative and racist Detroit News that she could cut 6,000 city worker jobs in one year if she was elected mayor. That's twice what Kilpatrick proposed! McPhail says she'd do this while avoiding layoffs, or at least union layoffs. That's hard to believe given that she plans to cut a third of the workforce. But even if layoffs were somehow avoided, such massive job cuts would gut city services and overextend the workforce.
. Another allegedly staunch opponent of the Kilpatrick plans is Councilwoman JoAnn Watson. On
her web site in January she called for a "10% salary cut among all City of Detroit employees". She
also calls for a hiring freeze, which would eliminate jobs through attrition. Councilwoman Barbara
Rose-Collins has also called for wage cuts for city workers. (See Metro Times, March 9-15, 2005, p.
Reject the "equality of sacrifice" fraud!
. In order to get workers to accept concessions the City Council opponents of Kilpatrick push the fraud of "equality of sacrifice. " For example, they say if the workers take 10% pay cuts, then the banks should accept a 10% reduction in the interest payments they receive for financing the city debt. And they talk about high city officials also taking a 10% pay cut.
. But cutting a tenth of the hundreds of millions of dollars in interest payments to the banks would still leave the banks making a fortune. And cutting Kilpatrick's wages by a tenth would still mean he makes $150,000 a year. Thus, the high and mighty are asked only for token sacrifices. But for the thousands of city workers who are barely getting by on their modest wages, cutting a tenth of their wages is a big blow. There's no equality of sacrifice here: these schemes make the workers bear the bulk of the pain.
. So it appears the City Council opposition is all bark and no bite -- except when it comes to biting
Beware of sellout union officers
. City workers can't rely on the empty promises of the City Council opposition to defend them. They
can only rely on their own struggle. But now, as in the past, the main leaders of the city workers
unions are opposed to a serious struggle. So workers must be vigilant. Officially the union leaders
are against the pay cut. But at the same time they appear to be cooperating with the City Council
opposition to ram concessions down the workers throats under the banner of "equality of sacrifice. "
An editorial in the Michigan Citizen of March 27-April 2 stated:
. "The workers are saying no to a 10-percent pay cut if the interest-greedy banks won't share some sacrifice" and "The city is paying nearly half a billion dollars a year in interest payments. The amount sounds excessive and it would appear that there is room in that figure for the banks to give a little. " (emphasis added)
. When the Michigan Citizen refers to "workers", they are referring to union officials. So the Citizen
is saying here that city worker union officials are willing to cave in to concessions, if only the banks
make some token sacrifice. It should be noted that the Michigan Citizen is friendly toward the
Council opposition and the union leaders and that neither protested this editorial in the next issue of
Rank and file must get organized to fight concessions!
.City workers are angry about the cutbacks with good reason. It is not they who have created the budget crisis. It's the capitalists, along with their political flunkies, who are responsible for this calamity. And it's the rich who should bear the burden for the budget deficits.
. But for this to happen, it will take a determined struggle by the workers. It will require militant
mass action to defeat the cutbacks. But while there are a small handful of local union officials who
want to see some resistance, the bulk of the union officials hope to avoid a determined struggle.
Thus, the strength of the workers struggle will depend on the degree to which the workers keep the
initiative in their hands and overcome the obstacles of class collaborationist union bureaucrats.
Stand with the city workers and public school employees!
. Workers all over the Detroit metro area should stand with the city and school employees. They are defending not only their livelihoods, but the public services and schools needed by all working people in the area.
. Let's make the rich pay for the crisis by supporting mass actions the city and school employees organize. Help encourage solidarity with them where you work, live, attend school, etc. Worker-activists should encourage rank and file organization and clarify to the workers what to expect from their false friends in City Council and the timid union leaders.
. One of the organizations which has expressed solidarity with the city and schools workers is the Detroit chapter of the Million Worker March (MWM). MWM says they are interested in helping the workers build their own movement independent of the politicians. But the MWM-Detroit is presently dominated by forces who glorify the City Council opposition and the meek union officials. For example, an MWM-Detroit leader writes in the Workers World newspaper in support of JoAnn Watson's call "for the banks and bondholders to accept the same 10% reduction that's proposed for city workers". Such a stand glorifies JoAnn Watson's stand for concessions and the "equality of sacrifice" fraud. It means betraying the notion of workers having a stand independent of all the bourgeois politicians, including the liberals. It means violating the idea of independent worker action itself.
. Shamefully, such support for Watson's scheme in the MWM includes supporters of groups calling themselves "socialist". This includes the misnamed Communist Party, USA and the trotskyist Workers World Party, whose Workers World paper is quoted above. Such a stand has nothing in common with real Marxist socialism. Real communists stand for the class struggle. They expose the liberal politicians and union officials who try to foist concessions on the workers. They encourage the rank-and-file to build their own militant trend, independent of the liberals and conciliationist union leaders.
. To what extent the city and school workers will be able to resist the cutbacks remains to be seen.
But no matter the immediate outcome, attacks on the workers will continue, and any steps that can
help organize the rank-and-file workers will put them in a better position for the inevitable future
April 12: 4pm Coleman A. Young Municipal Center
(called by various AFSCME locals)
April 16: 11:30 am March on Manoogian Mansion
March gathers at 11:30 am at Erma Henderson Park, NE corner of E. Jefferson at Marina Drive
(called by a coalition of groups)
Last modified: April 28, 2005.