DETROIT EMERGENCY TOWN HALL MEETING OPPOSES BANKRUPTCY PLAN; MASS PROTEST AT COURT APRIL 1; SIGN OBJECTIONS

Video above, by Leona McElvene: Mass organizer Monica Patrick addresses crowd composed primarily of city retirees, who stand to lose up to 70% of their pensions, annuities and benefits

Moratorium NOW! calls for protest April 1st at bankrupty court

Forms to file with court to oppose vicious “Plan of Adjustment” provided

FIST proposes “Youth March for Jobs” April 4

Atty. Alice Jennings: May 1 should be no school, no work, no shopping day

By Abayomi Azikiwe

Videos by Leona McElvene

Slides by Cheryl Labash

March 4, 2014

DETROIT — A standing-room-only audience at Central United Methodist Church participated in an Emergency Town Hall meeting March 2 in response to the “Plan of Adjustment” in the Detroit federal bankruptcy case. The document is designed to institutionalize corporate rule over the people of this majority African-American city.

Participants in town hall meeting cheer speakers.

Participants in town hall meeting cheer speakers.

The event was planned by a coalition of organizations fighting the emergency management and bankruptcy of the city, including the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management, National Action Network Detroit Chapter, Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute, and Michigan Welfare Rights Organization.

The crowd was made up of many retired city workers. Under the state-imposed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s plan, retirees will be subjected to cuts that are tantamount to 70 percent of their overall income and benefits package.

Video above by Leona McElvene: People’s attorney Vanessa Fluker speaks

The plan does not mention the role of the banks in destroying the city. There were tens of thousands of foreclosures in the city beginning in 2007 as a direct result of the predatory lending of the banks and the failure of state and local government to impose a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.

Hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funds and settlement monies from fines paid by banks have been funneled to the state of Michigan, but very little has reached Detroit and other distressed cities to support the stabilization and reconstruction of working-class communities.

Standing room only crowd.

Standing room only crowd.

Several speakers stressed that developments in the coming weeks will be critical. Workers, retirees and the community must come out in force to stop the banks’ and the bondholders’ plans to impose their austerity program on the people of Detroit.

Several proposals were put forward by the organizers. On April 1 there will be a hearing in bankruptcy court for objectors to the Orr plan. Forms were distributed for retirees and residents to formally oppose the program of austerity. The Moratorium NOW! Coalition called for a mass demonstration in front of the courthouse that day.

Fred Westbrook, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union local representing the city’s bus drivers, called for a demonstration in Washington. “Detroit is a test case,” said Westbrook. “If they can carry this out here, it will spread across the country.”

A proposal to organize a “Youth March for Jobs” on April 4, the anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was advanced by youth of Fight Imperialism, Stand Together. FIST organizer Tom Michalak said, “Under this system there is no hope for youth. We have to begin to organize and fight for jobs and education.”

Attorney Alice Jennings proposed that May Day be utilized to call for a “no work, no school and no shopping day.” Jennings noted that such actions would draw the attention of people around the country.

RETIREE ANALYZES DEEP CUTS IN POA, SAYS RETIREES MUST VOTE NO

By Diane Bukowski

Detroit city retiree Cheryl Labash explains cuts that POA and attached 400 page addendum will mean to retirees.

Detroit city retiree Cheryl Labash explains cuts that POA and attached 400 page addendum will mean to retirees.

Detroit city retiree Cheryl Labash, who analyzed the entire 400-page addendum to the Plan of Adjustment, explained with a slide show why retirees and their organizations should NOT VOTE for the plan.

EM Kevyn Orr and the state-appointed Jones Day law firm are proposing a balloting process whereby each one of the retirees would cast their vote, despite the confusing legalese in the POA. She said a “yes” vote also means a vote to withdraw lawsuits against the bankruptcy currently pending at the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court, which have been filed by the retirement systems and numerous associations, as well as city workers’ unions.

A lawsuit challenging the validity of Public Act 436, under which Orr was appointed, is also ongoing in U.S. District Court in front of Judge George Caram Steeh, although Detroit has been redacted from it in keeping with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes unprecedented bar of lawsuits against not only the debtor, the City of Detroit, but also Governor Rick Snyder and other state officials involved in the Detroit bankruptcy filing.

Cuts for GRS workers will actually exceed 34 percent, up to 70 percent including COLA and benefit cuts.

Cuts for GRS workers will actually exceed 34 percent, up to 70 percent including COLA and benefit cuts.

“Orr proposes to put no city dollars into the General Retirement System pension fund until the year 2023,” Labash explained. “None of his proposals are guaranteed [dependent on whether state approves paltry $800 million in funding]. There will no longer be annual two percent COLA adjustments.” She said Orr wants first of all to cut monthly pension checks for General Retirement System workers by 34 percent, with a phony promise that he will reduce the cut if retirees vote “Yes.”

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She explained that Orr wants to go all the way back to 1999 to raid workers’ annuity savings plans, the part they themselves contributed aside from the pension the city paid into. Without presenting proof of his claims, Orr says that the retirement systems used faulty “rates of return” which inflated the value of the accounts, and the city wants that undetermined amount of money back. During the period from 1999 to the crash of 2008, the stock markets were “zooming,” Labash said, meaning that investments made from the annuity accounts also increased accordingly.

Orr attacks Annuity Savings Plans

Orr attacks Annuity Savings Plans

Orr cites no legal basis for his claim that the city has the right to take that money back from retirees. Labash noted that the question also remains open what the city will do to retirees who withdrew and reinvested their annuities on retirement, as the majority of city workers have done.

“Will they take that money out of their pension amounts?” Labash asked.

Sample check stub for retiree who left annuities in her account--will she take 34 percent cut in pension portion as well as undetermined amount from annuity portion?

Sample check stub for retiree who left annuities in her account–will she take 34 percent cut in pension portion as well as undetermined amount from annuity portion?

Similarly, Orr continues to claim in the POA that the retirement funds are $3.7 billion underfunded, according to “the city’s actuary” Milliman, Inc. However, both Orr and Charles Moore of Conway McKenzie testified during the bankruptcy trial that there is no written documentation of that claim. The retirement systems’ actuaries have said the rate of underfunding approximates only $800,000, in the only written report issued.

Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes (3rd from left) at forum Oct. 10, 2012, in five of six speakers endorsed PA 4, emergency manager law, and using Ch. 9 bankruptcy. They were (l to r) Frederick Headen of Treasurer's office, Edward Plawecki (neutral), Douglas Bernstein and Judy O'Neill, who trained EM's, with O'Neill co-authoring PA4, and Charles Moore of Conway McKenzie, a chief witness for Orr during bankrtupcy trial.

Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes (3rd from left) at forum Oct. 10, 2012, in five of six speakers endorsed PA 4, emergency manager law, and using Ch. 9 bankruptcy. They were (l to r) Frederick Headen of Treasurer’s office, Edward Plawecki (neutral), Douglas Bernstein and Judy O’Neill, who trained EM’s, with O’Neill co-authoring PA4, and Charles Moore of Conway McKenzie, a chief witness for Orr during bankrtupcy trial.

The boom which led to increased rates of return to both the city’s pension and annuity funds was in fact created by the illegal practices of the banks, not the retirement systems. Global banks were involved during that period in an orgy of illegal predatory mortgage and municipal bond lending which collapsed in on itself in 2008, devastating Detroit’s neighborhoods with mass foreclosures and evictions, and its city services and jobs. Retirement systems across the country also sustained losses on their investments.

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“Orr never talks about the racist disinvestment in the city of Detroit, or the way the city has been red-lined,” Labash said. “The auto companies gutted the city’s employment during the ’70’s and ’80’s, closing every single auto plant except Jefferson Assembly and Poletown, which are running with a vastly decreased workforce. He doesn’t talk about the mortgage foreclosure crisis or the crash of 2008, the huge economic meltdown created by the banks.”

Banks responsible for crisis, not retirees and workers.

Banks responsible for crisis, not retirees and workers.

She concluded, “Why should WE have to pay for a crisis we didn’t create? Instead, Detroit’s debt to the banks must be canceled, there must be a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions, tax breaks for GM, Chrysler and [developers] must be canceled! Bring back the hundreds of millions that Detroit sends to the Pentagon!”

All Out April 1 – Last day to file your objection in court

March 07, 2014

City retirees and supporters protest outside court Aug. 19, 2013.

City retirees and supporters protest outside court Aug. 19, 2013.

File your objection to the “Plan for the Adjustment of Debts of the City of Detroitand/or “Disclosure Statement With Respect to Plan for the Adjustment of Debts of the City of Detroit”.

The deadline for filing is April 1, 2014.

At the March 17 meeting of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, a workshop will be held to assist you in filling out your objections.  The meeting starts at 7 pm and takes place at 5920 Second Ave., Detroit.

Down load instructions and form here:

Microsoft Word version – People’s Objection to Plan of Adjustment

PDF version – People’s Objection to Plan of Adjustment

All Out April 1 At Federal Courthouse – 10 AM

City retiree Cecily McClellan addresses rally.

City retiree Cecily McClellan addresses rally.

Calling on all City of Detroit retirees, current City workers, residents and other concerned people for a mass protest outside the Federal Courthouse in Detroit (231 W. Lafayette St.). Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has a “Plan of Adjustment” that will loot the pension funds to pay off the bankers. 90% of the bank debt owed by City of Detroit will be paid 100%. Only a small percentage of lenders will take a hit. Meanwhile Orr wants to give $85 Million to Bank of America and UBS as a reward for illegal bond swaps—but they stole over $300 Million from us through these swaps over the past 6 years.

Retirees with Ed McNeil of AFSCME Co. 25 at left.

Retirees with Ed McNeil of AFSCME Co. 25 at left.

Fight back or starve! That is the choice for over 20,000 retirees. Health care has been eliminated for those under 65. Now they want to take 34% of the little retirees get after decades of loyal service. The plan of adjustment assures that no banker will miss a meal, but for retirees it’s a death sentence.

There is plenty of money. Gov. Snyder is withholding hundreds of millions of revenue sharing owed Detroit. Orr could sue BofA, UBS and other big banks to recover the $300 Million they stole in the pension swaps deal and over $500 Million in ill-gotten gains via the Water Department bond swap. The banks who destroyed our cities with racist predatory loans have been fined $50 Billion by the federal government (Chase Bank paid $13 Billion alone!). Detroit should get some of that huge sum as restitution for destroying our neighborhoods.

Youth gives presentation in solidarity with his elders and residents of Detroit.
Youth gives presentation in solidarity with his elders and residents of Detroit.

The City will pay ZERO into the pension fund for the next 10 years, depending entirely on charitable contributions which are not guaranteed. Cost of living increases are to be eliminated. Orr wants to make retirees pay back 34% of what they’ve already collected since June 2013 and take back some annuity money from retirees going back to 1999!

Only a MASS MOVEMENT will stop this terrorist conspiracy. Civil and worker rights were affirmed by the courts only after the mass struggle forced them. Lawyers in the courts need the support of thousands in the streets to drive home the point – this is UNACCEPTABLE.

Issued by: Moratorium NOW! Coalition (Moratorium-Mi.org); Stop Theft of Our Pensions Committee 313-680-5508

Also go to http://detroitdebtmoratorium.org/ and http://www.d-rem.org/.

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