DETROIT – Inside Cobo Hall, Detroit’s convention arena, corporate CEOs gathered to discuss the state’s economy at Gov. Snyder’s two-day economic summit.
Outside, cheers broke out when Registered Nurse John Armelagos declared, “While the governor entertains his rich friends, we gather for the ‘real’ economic summit.”
Armelagos was joined by several hundred others from We Are Michigan, a statewide labor and community based organization, protesting the governor’s failed policies of austerity and trickle-down economics. He noted in Detroit’s ‘real’ economy, the unemployment rate is “officially about 20 percent but probably closer to 40.”
He said those austerity policies included the stealing of millions from pensioners, the raising of taxes on the states’ poorest by gutting the Earned Income Tax Credit, and defunding education, all to pay for a $1.4 billion dollar corporate tax break.
Armelagos blasted Snyder’s signature legislation, the Emergency Manager Law that undemocratically seizes local control from taxpayers and puts cities under the “dictates of unelected czars.” He said it was just discovered that Snyder’s appointment to run Detroit, Kevyn Orr, can’t even maintain his own taxes. (The Detroit News reported the state of Maryland had four tax liens on Orr’s million dollar home totaling more than $32,000 in unpaid taxes).
He said the Governor’s “worst act” was his signing of Right-to-Work (for less) legislation after right-wing Amway billionaire and former Michigan Republican gubnatorial candidate Dick DeVos gave Snyder what Armelagos called “his marching orders.”
JoAnn Rowland, a twenty five year member of Carpenter’s Local 687 had some sage advice for Governor Snyder. She stated our most valuable resource is not “corporate interests” but “the people of the state.”
She said the construction industry is a leading economic indicator and these days it’s not looking good. “On a daily basis I talk to our men and women. They are struggling, worried they are going to lose their homes, or not be able to feed their families.”
With good reason, she’s a strong advocate for labor rights. “I know myself, as a woman, if it weren’t for belonging to a union, having their support, having them educate me in my trade, I wouldn’t be able to raise my family in the manner I did.” She worried women and minorities might be “especially” hurt if unions are weakened.
Metro Detroit AFL-CIO President Chris Michalakis said we are seeing a widespread shift of taking money from working people and putting it in pockets of big corporations. “It’s a double whammy; we no longer have an elected government.”
Michalakis announced the next major action. On March 28th, the day after Right-to-Work takes effect, everyone is being asked to wear “red” to work. All across the state there will be rallies, candlelight vigils and workplace actions.
Governor Snyder is up for re-election in 2014 and that date is not far from people’s minds. “We gotta kick him out,” said Michalakis.
Photo: John Rummel/PW