Workers, Santa rally for fair contract terms

pic_1-rally-12-16-13Santa Claus today joined hundreds of state employees as they demonstrated outside Cadillac Place in Detroit to call for fair contract terms and an end to more health care cost-shifting.

Chanting “No more cutbacks, been there, done that,” and “Governor Snyder can’t you see, health care costs are hurting me,” the protestors marched outside the governor’s Detroit office building on Grand Blvd. from noon to 1 p.m.

Today’s rally, and another one scheduled for noon on Tuesday in Lansing, were organized by workers in a lead-up to a Civil Service Commission meeting that will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 18 in Lansing. During the meeting the commission will hear final arguments from members of the five unions that make up the Coalition of State Employee Unions, as well as from the state employer, and make a final decision on the terms of the 2014-2015 collective bargaining agreements. The parties reached an impasse in September over wage rates and health care benefits. At issue is an impasse panel’s health care recommendation to the Civil Service Commission that shifts more costs onto workers even though they have already given hundreds of millions of dollars in health care givebacks in recent years and the state is now projecting a budget surplus north of $900 million.

“We sat across the table from Gov. Snyder and last time he said that workers have given as much as they need to give and now it was time to move the state forward. Yet he comes back this time and what does he want? He wants more concessions and more cuts,” said UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada. “He talks about what a great, healthy Michigan we have. He wants the state of Michigan to be healthy for his corporate CEO buddies, but not for the workers who make our state run. I say all workers should be able to partake in that success.”

In the spirit of the season, Santa took time out of his busiest time of year to drop by and present Gov. Snyder with gifts he said the governor’s millions couldn’t buy: Integrity, Honesty and Fairness.

“We know the governor desperately needs these qualities, said Kelly Barnett, a member of UAW Local 6000. “Hopefully he will put them to good use in the days ahead.” Santa also gave Snyder a bag of coal for his past treatment of the state’s front-line service workers who have stepped up year after year, agreeing to painful concessions to help repair the state’s budget.pic_4-rally-12-16-13

“We only make up 10 percent of the state’s total budget,” said SEIU 517M member Joey Combs, “yet the governor seems to only go after us for cuts. It’s like we’ve got a big bull’s-eye on our back, and he only has eyes for us.”

In October, the unions released a new report identifying areas of state government where waste and inefficiency exist and called on the governor to work with them to streamline operations, potentially saving taxpayers millions in the process. Thus far, the governor has given no indication he is willing to tackle those issues, which include out-of-whack management-staff ratios and outsourcing state jobs to more costly contractors.

The rally also drew former U.S. Representative and candidate for Michigan governor Mark Schauer, who told the crowd people should come first.

“You care for our kids, you protect our environment, you protect our public health, you keep us safe. You are the people that make Michigan the great state that it is,” Schauer said. “It’s time we have leadership in the governor’s office and in the legislature that value you and know the role that you play for our great state.”

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