Detroit Public Workers Fight Back!

BAMN November 16, 2011 Labor Movement Comments Off on Detroit Public Workers Fight Back!

Stop the Corporate Austerity Drive that’s Pushing Us into Poverty



 City-County Building (Woodward/Jefferson)

This country is not broke. The top tiers of our nation continue to grow more obscenely wealthy as the gap between the rich and the poor, working class and even middle-class grows wider each year. The banks and corporations are draining the people like a gang of vampires, intent on lowering our living standards and expectations for decent futures. The richest Americans are concentrating the nations’ wealth and forcing austerity on the rest of us. Draw the line now!

After failing Detroiters as mayor, Dave Bing is now openly campaigning for Republican Governor Rick Snyder to appoint him as the Emergency Manager (Dictator) of the city. He wants this power so he can carry out the drastic down-sizing, down-grading, degrading and racist changes that big business requires from Detroit, including cutting off gas, light and services to huge swaths of the city!

Judge Cox Uses Pretext of Pollution to Union Bust

On November 4th, Republican Federal Judge Sean Cox issued an order which was supposed to stop the Detroit Wastewater Plant from polluting the river. Instead, his order cripples the ability of AFSCME Local 207, the union representing Detroit Water & Sewerage Department (DWSD) employees, to represent their members, attacks seniority rights and voids Detroit residents’ legal right to vote on the privatization or selling of the DWSD’s assets.

Judge Cox’s order threatens all unions in the public and private sectors with similar attacks, and negates the democratic rights of residents everywhere — while doing NOTHING about pollution.

After illegally laying off public lighting repair workers, Bing and the City Council are paying DTE to repair the lights of a select (wealthier) sector of the city at vastly inflated labor costs. The city is appealing a judge’s ruling to reinstate the workers.

Never an End to the Demand for Concessions

After forcing contract concessions on Detroit City workers in 2009-10, Mayor Bing is now insisting on more give-backs, including: a 10% pay cut (to replace furloughs, so he can layoff more workers). He also wants a 300% increase in health insurance paycheck deductions for most workers, and dramatically higher out-of-pocket costs. The bleeding of Detroit City workers and the cut-back of services to Detroiters must stop now.

Deliberately Degrading City Services

Bus service in Detroit and the surrounding area is constantly being reduced and bus drivers are being assaulted. After cutting the number of bus mechanics, Bing then falsely accused them of “slowing down.” And management still refuses to provide mechanics with the parts necessary to repair the buses.

Wayne County officials have been exposed as corrupt paid puppets of big business, pocketing payoffs while forcing “austerity measures” on County workers which have drastically reduced their living standards and cut social services to county residents.

Destruction of Public Education in Detroit

Years of undemocratic state control of Detroit Public Schools has led to more debt, less public schools, more profit-motivated charter schools, poorer education and attacks on school unions. Much of the school support services have been privatized and workers forced to reapply for their own jobs! The appointed DPS Emergency Manager is continuing his job of destroying public education while receiving open payoffs from corporations.


Local 207 has been targeted because we are the last stand in the defense of Detroit. Since the current leadership was first elected at the end of 2000, this union has been the strongest, most progressive union in the city, recognized nation-wide for never giving in, never giving up and never selling out.

Over the years it has been Local 207 which knocked back repeated attempts to takeover and privatize Detroit’s Water Department. We defeated both major attempts at privatizing incineration at the Waste Water Treatment Plant, including exposing the criminal bribery in the Synagro affair.

Defending the Unions by Defending the Community

We have always stood up for Detroit and the black community. We were instrumental in the on-going fight to maintain affirmative action in Michigan, organizing our members to testify at a Michigan Civil Rights Commission hearing against the racist, fraudulent efforts to rob black and Latina/o youth of access to higher education.

Fighting Racism – On the Job and Off

One of our main opponents in our battle to defend affirmative action was Michigan Attorney-General Mike Cox, Judge Cox’s brother. In 2003, we helped mobilize over 1,000 Detroiters to join the 50,000 people rallying in Washington, D.C. for affirmative action. We’ve been sued twice for “reverse discrimination” due to our strong stands against racism and for equality. We won both times.

Ousting Kilpatrick

When others were afraid of Kilpatrick or in bed with his corrupt regime, we openly called for his resignation. And when some of his cronies tried to stop our members from demonstrating in front of the City-County Building, Local 207 members out-pushed and out-lasted them. And we brought him down.

We have led all City unions in the fight to resist the calls for more and more contract concessions, and have reduced those concessions as a result. We have the highest functioning AFSCME Local in the City, filing 300-400 grievances a year and taking them as far as we can. We have been able to bring many people unjustly fired back to work.

Providing Alternative Leadership within AFSCME

At AFSCME national conventions we are the delegates who are unafraid to speak the plain truth, standing for equal rights, immigrant rights, against the endless wars, and against increasing union dues merely to give it to a bunch of sellout politicians who keep stabbing workers in the back.

For our efforts the leadership and membership of 207 have rightly earned hatred and fear from Dave Bing, his Chief Operating Officer Chris Brown (ex-DTE executive), and the Republican union-hating, Detroit-hating,  right-wingers. We welcome their hatred and wear it as a badge of honor.

At the end of 2009, Bing cut off AFSCME’s dues deduction to try and starve us out because we refused to cave in to Bing’s contract demands. Most AFSCME Locals finally began getting dues deduction in May of 2011, but Local 207 had to go to court and only got our dues reinstated at the end of September. While this created hardships, it did not break us. We are still fighting. And that is why they have turned to a right-wing Republican like Judge Cox to save them from the fighting spirit of Detroit.

We are filing legal action along with AFSCME Council 25, but this battle will be won or lost by the members. We can fight this, we can win, and we must win. But it will mean standing and fighting like never before. We need to stand together with the bus drivers, bus mechanics and Wayne County workers who are all under attack from corrupt and incompetent Management. Together we can defend our jobs, our city services and our communities.

For more information about AFSCME Local 207, go to: or email: [email protected]

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About The Author

BAMN is a mass, democratic, integrated, national organization dedicated to building a new mass civil rights movement to defend affirmative action,integration, and the other gains of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and to advance the struggle for equality in American society by any means necessary.

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