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Detroit retiree group vows to exhaust appeals process in bankruptcy fight

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

While Detroit has now officially exited bankruptcy, a small but dedicated group of city retirees and employees is still fighting the city’s restructuring plan in court.

Judge Steven Rhodes approved the city’s plan of adjustment in November, and that plan went into effect in December.

However, the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association is pursuing an appealthat’s set to be heard in federal court later this year. 

They contend the bankruptcy violated rights guaranteed in both the Michigan and US constitutions.

Group members believe the entire process was a “dictatorial” and “premeditated” attack on workers and pensions—one they suggest will be replicated elsewhere in the future.

“It’s an insult, what has happened,” said Cecily McLellan. “And we know that, throughout the process, there were always ways to prevent this bankruptcy.”

Retiree activist David Sole even called the bankruptcy “a vicious terrorist attack” against Detroit pensioners—and called out Gov. Snyder, former Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr and others as “terrorists.”

“People who destroy the lives and assault tens of thousands of poor people, threatening their very existence, have to be called terrorists,” Sole said.

The bankruptcy forced non-uniform Detroit retirees to take 4.5% pension cuts. Many also face bigger hits from lost annuity savings funds and health care benefits.

The Association has successfully pushed their appeal in federal court so far, despite not having formal legal counsel. Members say they’re currently raising funds to hire a lawyer.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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