AFSCME backs challenger in Detroit mayoral race

In a reversal that caught few by surprise, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) withdrew its endorsement of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing giving it to challenger Tom Barrow for the city’s upcoming November election. The November election will be for a full, four year term.

Albert Garrett, President of Michigan Council 25 of AFSCME said Bing no longer has the faith of AFSCME and working families. “He’s a new mayor with nothing but old ideas” said Garrett.

At a press conference Friday, Garrett, whose union represents 18,000 workers living in the city, took aim at some of the “old ideas” Bing is proposing to solve Detroit’s almost $300 million budget deficit. Coming under criticism were Bing’s proposals to cut ten percent of the city’s workforce, cut employee pay by ten percent, privatize the city’s tax collection, payroll and trash pick-up and reduce the city’s bus service.

Garret said Bing’s attempt to cut city bus service will hurt working families by making it more difficult and more expensive to get to work. This is a serious issue in a city where many have no motor vehicle and are forced to ride a patchwork of routes to arrive at work.

Several weeks ago, an initial Bing proposal to eliminate all weekend service was met with public uproar and the idea was dropped by the mayor. However, Garrett said Bing’s current proposal to eliminate 113 bus drivers, 110 mechanics, 60 service and 75 middle managers will do the same and more. Laying off more than half of the mechanics who maintain the buses will cripple the system and “make it impossible to keep up service” said Garrett.

Present at the press conference was Tom Barrow, Bing’s challenger, who said I “reject the notion that we balance the city budget on the back of the city’s workers. Bing’s solution is to “whack, cut, outsource, privatize. Unions and people are suffering. I reject the notion we balance the budget on back of city’s workers” said Barrow.

Barrow pointed out that Bing’s “solutions” can come back to haunt the city saying “when you cut city workers and services you create a desperation where more people will move out of the city.”

Such a scenario would further exacerbate Detroit’s problems as the city’s population has already declined to 850,000 from a high of two million in the 1950’s.

Barrow also spoke to the danger of eliminating union jobs that created the “middle class.” “Where is the person with a high school education going to go to find a job” he asked.

Garrett indicated the mayor is not pushing for cuts across the board as a number of new department chiefs and staffs are getting significant raises. Garrett said when the union raises these questions we are told “AFSCME is not going to tell us how to run the city.” Garrett indicated if that was the mayor’s stance then he should also “take your hands out of our business.”

Garrett made a point of saying the union has not gone to the bargaining table “unreasonably” adding they had asked for documentation on the city’s finances but the city is not sharing information.

Detroit is not the only community in Michigan facing budget problems. Cities throughout the state have seen a loss of jobs and tax base. But the people of Detroit, a city with an unemployment rate of almost thirty percent, cannot survive additional hardships.




John Rummel
John Rummel

Activist John Rummel covers events in Michigan. It's not politics-only for John; he loves sports, the outdoors and a cold beer or two!