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Detroit school unions take aim at imposed pay cuts, emergency manager law

Mercedes Mejia
Michigan Radio
An attorney suing the state over its emergency manager law is welcoming a lawsuit filed this week by Detroit Public Schools unions.
The three unions' lawsuit claims emergency manager Roy Roberts violated the district employees’ constitutional rights by imposing a 10% wage cut. 
The imposed wage cut is the first instance of an emergency manager using the law’s new powers to seriously alter a union contract. 
The lawsuit also challenges the constitutionality of Michigan’s Public Act 4, which empowers financial managers to unilaterally change collective bargaining agreements. 
Bill Goodman is a Detroit attorney who represents 28 citizens suing the state over PA 4. Goodman says he thinks the unions have a good case.  
“In some ways, their case has some strength that our case does not have, that these people whose lives and income and well-being are directly affected by an illegal action.”

Goodman says state law is “fatally flawed” and “invalid for a whole variety of reasons,” including its ability to overrule local voters.

Some other legal experts disagree with Goodman’s analysis.

Wayne State University law professor Robert Stedler tells the Detroit News that constitutional protections for private contracts may not apply in this case.

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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