DETROIT CITY WORKERS BEING RUN OUT OF JOBS IN EVERY DEPT. DUE TO BANKRUPTCY
By Diane Bukowski
Oct. 9, 2015
(Editor: photos taken of this event by VOD did not turn out, others are used.)
Active city workers told State Sen. Coleman A. Young (D-Detroit), City Council President Brenda Jones, and Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hatty about the devastating effects the bankruptcy continues to have on them, during a meeting called by AFSCME Local 2799 Pres. Cheryln Rupert Oct. 5 at the AFSCME Council 25 hall downtown.
Under terms of the bankruptcy, the state continues its oversight of City of Detroit finances for 20 years, through a “Financial Review Commission.”
Romona Jones, a 27-year city employee currently with the Finance Dept. Purchasing Division, said all workers there are being forced to reapply for their jobs after completing online applications and testing.
“A lot of employees find the applications very difficult to complete, and they are afraid that if they don’t pass, they will be set on the street,” Jones said.
Vance Russell, a principal accountant who has worked for the city for 30 years, said workers in his division are also being forced to reapply for their jobs, under terms of Orr’s Executive Order 41, “Establishing Centralized Financial Management Organizational Structure.” See EM Order 41 Establishing Centralized Financial Management Organizational Structure.
“This is a bomb over our heads,” Russell said. “We have an existing union agreement, from 2014-2018, that delineates our positions and nowhere does it state we have to re-apply for our jobs. The city met with all city employees Jan. 8, going around the unions, and held a sledge hammer over them saying the same thing.”
Council President Brenda Jones said it was her understanding that all EM orders should have expired in Dec. 2014, upon Orr’s exit as emergency manager, and that she is researching the matter.
Mike Mulholland, Pres. of AFSCME Local 207, representing Detroit Water and Sewerage (DWSD) workers, told VOD last week that he expects 67 of his members to be laid off this week because the department changed their job titles and made them apply for the new jobs, which comprised the same work, then denied their applications.
DWSD director Sue McCormick recently said that the department has eliminated 41 percent of its workers. A large number of contractors are being hired. Jones said the DWSD contracts are not being brought before the City Council.
For the past month, VOD has observed contractors on East Jefferson from Belle Isle to Erma Henderson Park digging up huge tracts of sidewalks and street-side land. A project worker said they are replacing water mains, work normally done by qualified DWSD employees. Contractor trucks included some from Springline Excavating, LLC, which has offices in Detroit, Livonia, and Smyrna, GA.
Former Local 207 Vice-President Lekita Thomas earlier told VOD that DWSD workers must frequently go behind the work of inexperienced contractors to re-do it. There definitely appeared to be shoddy workmanship on the current project, as seen by one hydrant among many that have spouted water for weeks after the work.
Association of Detroit Engineers Pres. Shakil Ahmed recently emailed GLWA chair Robert Daddow as follows: “DWSD is laying off 11 experienced engineers even with professional licenses and in their place are bringing engineers with no experience and without professional licenses. We are very short in engineering staff and this action will upset the operation of DWSD.”
Daddow replied that he could do nothing about it because the GLWA has not yet taken control. DWSD director Sue McCormick recently said that the department has eliminated 41 percent of its workers.
Audrey Bellamy, President of the Senior Accountants, Analysts and Appraisers Association(SAAA), said the city has also told all DWSD workers that they are no longer Civil Service employees.
“I don’t believe that’s legal or that they have the capacity to tell our people that,” Bellamy said.
DWSD faces a takeover mandated under terms of the bankruptcy plan by the regional Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), with a current deadline of Jan. 1, 2016. DAREA and other groups are circulating petitions under Public Act 233 of 1955 calling for Detroiters to hold a referendum vote on the contract, mandated by that Act. If successful, the contract would be revoked, according to language in the Act.
The GLWA met July 8 and approved a plan to severely downsize the current DWSD system, workforce, facilities, and spending as it takes over.
One of the provisions was to eliminate the whole of Genesee County, not just Flint, from the system. Recent announcements that Flint will be hooking back up to DWSD since large levels of lead poisoning have resulted from Flint’s jerry-rigged set-up apparently are going to throw a wrench into those plans.
Delia Enright, President of AFSCME Local 1023 representing 911 workers, said the City Clerk’s office no longer has minutes for the Civil Service Commission, which they had kept on file for decades until 2011. She said she finally tracked down copies of the minutes and made a startling discovery.
“Denise Starr, the new head of Human Resources, went to the Civil Service Commission in June and gave them a brief outline of some of the Civil Service rules she is going to change.”
According to the City Charter, the Human Resources Department operates under the direction of the Civil Service Commission, not vice versa. Civil Service actually predates union representation for public workers, having been established in most municipalities decades ago to stop corrupt hiring practices.
Phyllis McMillion, president of AFSCME Local 542, representing General Service and Recreation Department workers, said the city is refusing to notify the union as required of the contracting out of numerous union-represented positions, meaning the lay-offs of more city workers.
Catherine Phillips, staff representative for Michigan AFSCME Council 25, said the union has filed unfair labor practice charges on the matter. During bankruptcy proceedings, Council 25 withdrew its appeal to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Rhodes’ eligibility ruling, and later agreed to terms of the bankruptcy plan of adjustment.