Public employees rally in Lansing

By Charles Sercombe
Union members from all walks of work haven’t felt this much buzz in years.

There is opposition growing against Republican lawmakers attempting to roll back union rights to the days before there were unions. It started several weeks ago in Wisconsin when that state’s governor, Scott Walker, proposed ending collective bargaining rights for public union employees.

Union members in that state were quick to respond by jamming into the state capitol to voice their opposition.

Flash forward to this past week, and Michigan public employees are also now on the war path. They are fighting against an amendment to expand the powers of state appointed emergency financial managers.

The new law — pushed forward by Republican lawmakers and endorsed by Gov. Rick Snyder, who is also a Republican – allows a financial manager to nullify public employees’ contracts, among other drastic measures.

Hamtramck public employees were represented by firefighter William Diamond, who is the president of his union. He joined thousands of other union employees Tuesday in the state capitol, shouting slogans and trying to persuade Republican lawmakers to back off from expanding the power of state-appointed financial managers.

“It was nice because it was a mix of all unions,” Diamond said of the rally. “There was solidarity there, although it didn’t work.”

Across the country, newly-elected Republican legislators are on the forefront to break unions and push their agenda of privatizing public services.

Those who oppose the move toward breaking unions say there are serious constitutional issues that may prevent these measures from taking place. America appears to be heading full speed ahead into an ideological war.

Snyder has been quoted in the media saying that the new powers of the emergency financial manager are meant to prevent communities from facing bankruptcy.

However, one of the key tools in the new legislation allows financial managers to nullify contracts in order to save money. Financial managers also have the power to dissolve struggling cities and school districts as well as merge them with other communities.

While Snyder is not taking unions head-on, he is nonetheless endorsing what could lead to the end of union contracts.

Diamond conceded that this “isn’t a good time for unions,” but he is hopeful that this debate will inspire other working people to stand up.

No matter how this issue plays out, Diamond said his union members will remain dedicated to providing service to the community.

“We will put 100 percent of dedication to protecting the city,” he said. “We are not going to cut back on our aid to the citizens,” he said.

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