Detroit City Council “no” vote on imposed contract likely to0 late
By Diane Bukowski
July 18, 2012
DETROIT – Despite Detroit City Council’s 5-4 “no” vote on a corporate-sponsored assault on city workers July 17, a union-busting “City Employment Terms” (CET) contract will likely take effect in 30 days, under terms of the city’s Public Act 4 “consent agreement.”
Council President Charles Pugh said he was the deciding “No” vote on the CET. By the same reasoning his was the deciding “Yes” vote on the consent agreement, the poisonous tree from which all subsequent actions have fallen. The consent agreement clearly spelled out its union-busting intent.
Detroit’s new “Gang of Four,” Chief Operating Officer (COO) Chris Brown, Program Management Director Kriss Andrews, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jack Martin, and Labor Relations Director Lamont Satchel, along with Police Chief Ralph Godbee, presented the CET package to Council July 16. It includes even more severe cuts than those in a package sent to unions earlier.
“All the time, you are talking like the sky is falling and there are going to be payless paydays,” Sheila Pennington, President of AFSCME Local 1023, told the Gang of Four. “We went to the table with you, Chris and you, Chief Godbee, and negotiated a tentative agreement, but it didn’t see the light of day. You have torn apart and destroyed our contract without any input at all from us. We have NOT lost the right to collective bargaining. This is WRONG, DIRTY AND LOW DOWN.”
Pennington represents civilian workers at the Police Department.
“According to the Charter, the Financial Stability [consent] agreement doesn’t exist.” Tyrone Travis, of Free Detroit-No Consent, said. “You are giving all the jobs in the city to the suburbs and private contractors. We will no longer agree to proposals you put on the ballot. Say NO to the DIA! Put any funds owed to the state in escrow!”
The CET includes a 10 percent wage cut and other financial cuts, with more possible in the future, an assault on the city’s pension plans and retirees, including elimination of dental and vision care after Jan. 1, 2013, a 20 percent annual premium co-pay on health care, elimination of seniority rights in promotions and transfers, work rule changes at the city’s whim, and cuts in union representation rights, to cite a few.
(See chart and link to 7/16/12 CET package at end of article.)
The plan allegedly will save the city $102 million in labor costs. The city’s PA4 Financial Advisory Board (FAB) vetted and approved it earlier in three closed sessions with State Treasurer Andy Dillon, Brown, Andrews, and Satchel also present. Under the consent agreement, the FAB can impose the contract regardless of the Council’s vote.
A coalition of city unions earlier bargained a contract that would have saved the city $180.2 million, according to its chief negotiator Ed McNeil, but Gov. Rick Snyder and State Treasurer Andy Dillon would not agree to let the Council finalize it.
This was the first time city workers and union officials even saw the current plan.
“I’m amazed at what you don’t know,” Al Garret, President of AFSCME Council 25, stood to say. “The consent agreement says if there is a collective bargaining agreement and they bring it to you, you can put it in place. There AIN’T no collective bargaining agreement. This has gone too damn far. At some point, you are going to have to stand up. Don’t vote for this, let them impose it.”
Councilwoman JoAnn Watson said the City Charter requires collective bargaining, and that the consent agreement does not pre-empt that obligation under three sections of the Public Employee Relations Act (PERA) not barred by Public Act 4.
“Folks are acting like Michigan has a right-to-work [anti-union] law in effect,” Watson said. “It does not. Detroit is the home of organized labor. This package throws all respect for the legacy of the unions out the window.”
She also brought up the possibility of a moratorium on the city’s debt.
“Why was there no effort to re-negotiate the city’s huge debt load to Wall Street bondholders who got bailed out by the taxpayers to the tune of trillions of dollars?” she asked. “You want to get tough with the working class, but you won’t confront Wall Street. Power concedes nothing without a demand.”
The city paid $597 million to the banks in the 2011-12 fiscal year, and carries a total debt load of $12.6 billion.
Watson added that Gov. Rick Snyder should restore residency requirements for city workers to increase the city’s revenue base. She asked why the Law Department, headed by Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon, had not been consulted on the package since it must approve all contracts.
City officials admitted that the law firms of Butzel Long, Miller Canfield, and Ernst & Young have been retained instead to advise on the contracts, at millions of dollars in expense to taypayers, let alone the costs for the salaries and staff of the CFO, the PMD, and the FAB.
Council members Pugh, Gary Brown and Saunteel Jenkins contended that an emergency manager would have been worse.
“We’ve basically got 14 emergency managers in place already [referring to the FAB, the CFO, the PMD, Dillon and Snyder among others],” countered Councilwoman Brenda Jones. Unless we change things at the top, someone can give the city $1 billion and we would be in the same place. It is not the employees’ fault.”
Brown, a former DTE executive and international privatizer, said, “Things are not the same. It may not be fair, but it’s necessary. The market is not providing these services anymore.”
Neither Mayor Dave Bing nor Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis were at the table. Brown, who led the administration’s presentation at the opposite end of the table from Council President Charles Pugh, appears to be the city’s first white mayor, de facto.
Andrews was most recently Chief Financial Officer at Energy Conversion Devices, which filed for bankruptcy in February.
Neither he nor Brown have had any prior experience dealing with the public sector. Under the consent agreement, Andrews has veto power.
“We are looking at the possibility of more reductions in force, significant reductions in overtime, and using selective furlough weeks,” he noted. “We are going to re-evaluate retiree health care coverage as a whole. We retained a third party actuary to deal with things in the most ‘humane’ way.”
Martin was a member of the Detroit financial review team Snyder appointed and also Highland Park Schools EM. He previously served under U.S. President George W. Bush as CFO for the U.S. Department of Education, where he helped implement the pro-charter school No Child Left Behind Program. He is making $224,000 as the City’s CFO, also with veto power under the consent agreement.
“It’s Doomsday,” he said. “No matter what happens with Public Act 4, the bottom line is that we are running out of cash and we don’t want to file bankruptcy. We may have to shut down parts of the city. The only way we can survive and prosper is to take actions like this.”
Martin did not produce any financial documents detailing evidence of projected cash flow shortages.
“The most significant part of this package is the management rights clause,” Satchel said. “Management reserves the right to make any changes as it deems necessary to act to achieve its desired goals. We will sit down with the unions to inform them of the changes if there is time.”
Satchel insisted that the Labor Relations Division and department heads were responsible, in “collaboration” with the FAB, for producing the meat of the CET.
However, Ed McNeil, chief assistant to AFSCME Council 25 President Al Garrett, said that State Treasurer Dillon told him that Jan Winters, head of the Office of the State Employer (as she was under former Gov. John Engler), oversaw the drafting of the package.
Satchel also repeatedly insisted that the “duty to bargain has been suspended” under PA4. However, Attorney Richard Mack, representing AFSCME, cited three clauses in PERA that were not suspended.
“In the next 30 days that the consent agreement gives you, have the Corporation Counsel look at specific sections of state labor law that say that the city still has to bargain with the unions,” Mack said. You made a mistake last time not getting her advice.”
Mack and AFSCME Council 25 have asked Crittendon to review the proposed CET and issue a legal opinion, in a letter sent July 16. He also gave Council a copy of the letter.
“With this letter, the Coalition of Detroit Unions formally asks you, Madam Corporation Counsel, to issue a legal opinion indicating that the City of Detroit may not impose employment terms on its unionized workforce, because of the city’s duty to bargain with the unions,” the seven-page letter begins. “This duty is found expressly in the City Charter . . . . If the leadership of the City refuses to comply with your opinion of an existing duty to bargain, we then ask that you seek ‘judicial action’ to require such bargaining. Charter 7.5-209.” (Click below for full copy of letter.)
When it voted 5-4 for the consent agreement, which allowed the current scenario to take place, the Council instead listened to legal advice rendered by Attorney Michael McGee of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone. Council member Kwame Kenyatta exposed McGee as a co-author of the language in Public Act 4, a contention confirmed by McGee himself in an article for the Michigan Municipal Advisory Council newsletter.
SAAA Vice-President Greg Murray said, “This is tyranny, a way to pay the corporate interests first. When will Detroit’s greatest assets—its people and workers—be used? We didn’t vote for this consent agreement. Stop this subjugation! This 21st century document amounts to indentured servitude, taking the city back to the 1800’s.”
Joseph Barney, an EMS technician and union representative with the Fire Department, said, “People are dying out here! EMS is killing them because we can’t get to them. There are no ambulances in southwest Detroit. We are 60 technicians below budget. This is not a collective bargaining agreement, it’s nothing but getting rid of the workers while you still have too many managers.”
Click on City CET Council Discussion Document 2012-07-16_1_5 to read entire package.
Click on AFSCME 25 letter to Krystal Crittendon to read entire letter.