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Michigan Fights Back: Financial Martial Law Heading for Ballot
Whew. There are so many battles going on across this country against Republican governors’ power grabs based on the ALEC agenda that it’s hard to keep up with everything.
This week we’ve already learned that Ohio is fighting back against Kasich’s anti-union bill with wild success, and now we learn that the fighting spirit of Michigan has roused up more than half the votes they need to put Snyder’s democracy killing emergency financial manager law on the ballot. The group organizing the referendum against Governor Rick Snyder’s Financial Martial Law (“Public Act 4″) is nearing the number they need, seven months before the signatures are due.
Michigan Forward has gathered 120,000 signatures of the required 161,304 total.
PA 4 is the law that allows the Governor to appoint an emergency financial manager to strip powers from local elected officials. It went into effect in April. The Emergency Manager Law is also being challenged in state courts, as it strips elected officials of their power, effectively killing democracy in the process. If you’re wondering what all of the fuss is about, this law “… allows Snyder to declare a “financial emergency” in a city or school district and appoint a manager with broad powers, including the ability to fire local elected officials, break teachers’ and public workers’ contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services—and even eliminate entire cities or school districts without any public input.”
As a result of Snyder’s draconian expansion of the pre-existing financial manager law, Benton Harbor has seen their city park privatized in effect, and handed to the Whirlpool Corporation for golfing purposes (Republican Congressman Fred Upton, the representative from that district, is the grandson of Whirlpool’s founder).
The Detroit Free Press reports:
The managers have laid off employees, privatized services, cut wages and increased health care costs for employees.
The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office now provides policing in Pontiac; the City of Ecorse cut its fire department by more than half and is privatizing EMS. Benton Harbor police and firefighters now cross-train to do each other’s jobs, and a 10% wage cut has been proposed for DPS employees.
The mere threat of appointment of an emergency financial manager has been used effectively as a weapon in negotiations with unions, as just happened in Northville, Michigan (an affluent suburb of Metro Detroit). During contract talks with teachers, Northville threatened the appointment of an emergency financial manager if the teachers didn’t concede to the demands.
Other districts are still fighting the draconian cuts, with Unions representing some of the least paid teachers in the Detroit Public Schools district filing a lawsuit on Wednesday challenging the constitutionality of the Emergency Financial Manager’s unilateral modification of union contracts.
While Michigan is undeniably facing tough times, Snyder and the Republican legislature have used the retracting and depressed economy as an excuse to subvert democracy and gain control over cities and districts in a manner that appears to clearly violate the constitution. The notion that unions have been unreasonable in negations doesn’t hold up when one looks at the facts, especially in light of the tax cuts Snyder et al have given to corporations in the state, whose sole purpose seems to be to reward campaign contributors and hand over the power of the state to corporates, as we are seeing in Benton Harbor. If Michiganders don’t stop him, Rick Snyder will turn Michigan into one corporate logo, with Michigan’s treasures like her state and city parks privatized for only the elite to enjoy.
Once the signatures are verified in March of 2012, the law will go on hold until the November 2012 elections.
Yes, you heard that right. The law will go on hold when they get enough signatures. And yes, they need volunteers, as they are hoping to do a huge push for Labor Day. The group is shooting for 250,000 signatures in order to allow for invalid signatures.
Michiganders are not going quietly into Snyder’s bad night. They’re fighting back at the ballot box like good citizens do (Perhaps “Ballots, not Bullets” should be the slogan for those who are fighting the Fascist tendencies of the current ALEC Republican agenda). Labor groups will come together for a parade on Labor Day in the metro Detroit area, replete with labor unions, the folks from Michigan Forward, and Progressive radio host Tony Trupiano. If you’ve never been to Michigan or the midwest, you might not understand just whom Rick Snyder is messing with. George Robinson sums up the fight of a Michigander in this video, where he warns people, “Vote Republican, cut your own throat!”
Rick shouldn’t have messed with Michigan. He really shouldn’t have messed with Michigan.