Detroit firefighters protesting bankruptcy discuss expanding fight against pension and budget cuts
July 24, 2013
Scores of firefighters demonstrated in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Detroit yesterday to voice their anger over last week’s bankruptcy filing by the city’s emergency manager, which threatens to cut up to 90 percent from the pensions owed to city workers and retirees.
With the trade unions offering no way forward, fire fighters have formed an ad hoc organization called the Public Safety Workers Action Group (PSWAG), to reach out more broadly to working people around the city and explain the connection between budget cutting and the undermining of safety for the city’s residents. PSWAG members have been holding a number of small demonstrations at fire stations across Detroit in recent days.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and other public sector unions, including the Detroit Fire Fighters Association, have opposed any genuine mobilization of city workers against the emergency manager and the bankruptcy. Instead, they have sought to divert opposition behind appeals to the bankruptcy judge to “uphold the law” and respect Michigan’s state constitution, which explicitly states that pensions are “contractural obligations,” which cannot be reduced.