Michigan workers protest EFM

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by Mike Kowalski
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—In January of this year, newly elected Republican Gov. Rick Snyder introduced into the legislature the anti-labor “Emergency Financial Managers Bill” (EFM). On March 9 Michigan’s Senate passed the bill, and Gov. Snyder signed it into law on March 17. The law creates a group of super-czars empowered to take control of municipalities and school districts that the governor has decided are in financial trouble and need to be rescued.
EFM gives unelected financial managers dictatorial power over cities and school districts. They would have the power to tear up laws and to fire elected officials. EFM would make it possible to modify, reject, or terminate public employees’ or teachers’ collective-bargaining agreements. It also would make it possible to slash public employees’ benefits, sell off public property, and fire elected school boards and city councils.
EFM has no checks and balances. The governor on his own would appoint the financial managers, and decide who they are going to rescue. Gov. Snyder claims Michigan needs EFM in order to save the state’s economy. Yet he has given $1.8 billion in tax cuts to corporations and the rich.
There have been a number of protests against the law. On March 8 thousands rallied in front of the capitol building in Lansing. The demonstrators filled all three floors of the building’s rotunda.
On March 15 about 1000 people demonstrated against the bill in front of the capitol. About 40 tried to occupy the building after the 5:30 pm closing time but were shut out by capitol security. On March 16 there was a small rally of around 250 people—sponsored by the AFL-CIO, UAW, and MoveOn.org—in front of the capitol.
On March 17, the largest demonstration so far—close to 5000 people—took place in front of the capitol building. It was composed of three waves throughout the day, and included nurses’ and teachers’ unions, government employees, students, and other concerned people.
A number of smaller actions against EFM took place in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Muskegon. After the bill was passed, however, the fightback  movement failed to grow. There were hopes that the Lansing actions would turn into something like what has taken place in Madison, Wis. This, unfortunately, did not happen.
The Democratic Party has circulated a petition against the law. AFSCME has called for local actions on April 4 against this and other attacks on public workers.
Gov. Snyder’s attacks on Michigan’s working people must be fought. The unions need to break from the Democratic Party and create a mass-based movement of working people to fight the governor and his actions.
> This article was originally published in the April 2011 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.

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