LANSING, Mich. - "In this country we are not supposed to have czars or dictators, we are supposed to have elected officials we can hold accountable," said AFSCME Secretary Treasurer, Lee Saunders. His comments came at a rally on the eve of turning in 226,000 signatures to repeal Michigan's draconian emergency manager law, officially known as Public Act 4.
What began in June ended Wednesday with the delivery of the petitions to the Secretary of State. "Today we sent a message that democracy is not meant only for a select few," said Brandon Jessup, Chair of the "Stand up for Democracy" labor and community coalition that collected the signatures throughout the state. When they are validated the act will be suspended until voters decide its fate in the November election.
Jessup said, "Our fight has just begun. We echo the sentiments of Congressmen John Conyers, Hansen Clarke and Gary Peters today in communication with the Secretary of State and Bureau of Elections for a lawful process in the counting of the petitions submitted. We are preparing for the next eight months of education, mobilization and demonstration to get Michigan voters out to the polls on November 6, 2012 and vote down Michigan's Dictator Law.
Because of Republican austerity programs, a Wall St instigated economic crisis, and an exodus of manufacturing jobs, many Michigan communities are running budget deficits. Public Act 4, passed last year and championed by Republican Governor Rick Snyder, allows the governor to appoint financial managers to run financially distressed cities.
How bad is it? Pontiac's emergency manager is selling city assets including five fire stations, two cemeteries, two landfills, 11 water-pumping stations, two community centers, the public library and a police station.
Emergency mangers can terminate collective bargaining agreements, remove elected officials from office and ban them from running for office for six years, dissolve political structures such as councils, commissions and school boards, sell city assets and force consolidation of services in schools, townships, cities and counties.
Elected officials from these towns have said they can "gavel a meeting to start" and "finish" but have no say on what happens in between. Asking to see city budgets they are told to go online and look it up.
Suspending Public Act 4 is seen as a first step. Winning back the state house, re-electing President Obama, and overturning the eighty plus anti labor bills passed by the Michigan legislature are among the next steps labor coalition forces will be taking.
Photo: The petitions. John Rummel/PW