First the Bing administration was going to bring up the concessionary union tentative agreements to the city council for a vote this morning. Then, council was going to vote at 1pm on a consent agreement. It was not apparent to the untrained eye, but this was meant to be a mirror image vote. In other words, those council members who voted for the concessionary tentative agreements would then not vote for the consent agreement. The consent agreement appeared to be a 6-3 up vote. Even council member Kwame Kenyatta admitted the consent agreement was going to pass if voted on today.
But this is Detroit, and there is never anything simple with issues of such magnitude. In some last minute maneuvering neither vote happened. It’s possible the consent agreement could come as early as tomorrow; or maybe not. It’s not likely the tentative agreement will come before council any time soon. The Bing administration told council this morning the state has the last word on whether to accept them, and it doesn’t like them at all. Though Detroit’s unions gave back roughly ten per cent of their wages by reopening their contracts and ceding unprecedented concessionary givebacks the Governor wants the city to run largely as a non-union shop taking away bumping rights, allowing contract labor from outside businesses, requiring merit based promotions and no strike or work slow down agreements among a twelve item shopping list. Council members lined up to call this unfair and improper. JoAnn Watson, Kwame Kenyatta and Brenda Jones all decried the Governor’s desires as dangerous and disrespectful. AFSCME President Al Garrett who led the negotiations for most of the city’s worker unions railed against a governor he believes racist, and promised he will not be back at the bargaining table with the state and he will not re-open his contracts again just because the Governor says the givebacks were inadequate. He intimated he would take his workers “to the streets” a veiled threat to strike the city if the Governor gets his way. All of this came at the same time Garrett’s attorneys fanned out across town trying to find a judge who would slap an injunction on city council to prevent a consent agreement vote.
What happened Monday morning
Just before noontime council President Charles Pugh announced there had been changes to the consent agreement and it will take until tomorrow for them to get worked out. It appears they are not substantive issues, but large enough to delay a vote for 24 hours. We said this before and find ourselves saying it again. All of this wrangling and rancor go on while the clock continues to tick. April 6th is the drop dead deadline for the Governor to decide whether to install an emergency manager. He admitted last week to getting impatient with the process. That’s certainly understandable. He must wonder, despite his bending to the will of many in Detroit, why this has to be so difficult. But he is also aware of the petition counting going on in Lansing, the counting that could put Public Act 4, the so-called emergency manager law up for a statewide vote in November. If it gets on the ballot it would more than likely freeze the current emergency manager law and reinstall its infinitely less powerful predecessor. He must also wonder why that effort has moved forward considering the alternative at that point is a Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy. We all wonder, as the clock ticks away on the city’s future, do you really want an out of state Federal Judge carving up the remains of the city? It’s entirely possible under that scenario. And have I mentioned the clock is ticking?