More than 400 retirees and supporters rallied in front of the Theodore Levin Federal Courthouse in downtown Detroit Tuesday, April 1, against deep cuts to pensions and healthcare set out in Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s bankruptcy restructuring plan.
Orr’s ‘Plan of Adjustment’ for Detroit’s bankruptcy cuts the General Retirement System pension up to 34% and the Police and Fire Retirement System pension up to 14%. It also proposes getting rid of cost of living adjustments in addition to steep cuts in health care benefits for retired and current city workers, making it hard for most pensioners to get by.
Police blocked Lafayette Ave. in front of the courthouse to accommodate more demonstrators as they turned out to rally.
Retirees and supporters walk a picket line in front of the federal courthouse during the protest.
After the demonstration outside the courthouse, which was organized by the Moratorium NOW! Coalition and Stop the Theft of Our Pensions Committee (STOPC), protesters marched to the bankruptcy court offices where a mass filing of objections to Kevyn Orr’s bankruptcy plan took place.
Those retirees who could not manage to walk the picket line put up chairs on the sidewalk to join the rally.
According to a statement released by organizers, “We have no other choice but to fight or starve. 23,000 pensioners and their families have had their health insurance cancelled and are facing at least a 34 percent cut in their monthly checks. These measures will inevitably result in mass deaths of retirees who have spent decades serving the city of Detroit.
“According to Orr’s plan, the Detroit will make no contributions to the pension funds for a decade. The much championed contributions from charitable foundations are not guaranteed. Meanwhile the city is slated to undergo massive dislocation and privatization of public services,” organizers say.
The Detroit Free Press reports that the pension funds released a joint statement, calling Orr’s proposal for replacement of the pension boards “tantamount to a takeover.”
“This is when we are supposed to be in good-faith negotiations and court-ordered mediation,” the statement said. “The plan as proposed is best described as completely unrealistic for the operation of these important pension funds for first responders and city workers who dedicated their careers to the City of Detroit. Indeed, such radical and irresponsible concepts could very well derail mediation and ensure protracted litigation.”
The Huffington Post reports that “Detroit will continue to reduce the size of its government and spending on employees. So far, 2,700 city jobs have been axed since 2011, leaving the city with about 9,560 workers as of last summer. The city announced this week that garbage pickup will be privatized. Orr also has proposed turning the water and sewer department over to a regional authority, but that has not been completely embraced by suburban communities. Health benefits for employees also are being cut back.”
Moratorium Now organizers say, “The Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) will face massive lay-offs in light of yet another bogus interest-rate swap deal that has saddled the revenue-generating entity $500 million in debt obligations that should be eliminated by the courts. Billions of dollars in federal settlement monies from the banks and tobacco industry remain in Lansing slated to be utilized for further privatization and the bulldozing of even more areas within the city.”