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Detroit union coalition wins a day in court; another legal hurdle for consent agreement?

A coalition of Detroit city unions has won a hearing in Ingham County Circuit Court.

The unions want a proposed consent agreement between Detroit and the state thrown out because of alleged Open Meetings Act violations.

They say state and city leaders inappropriately met on 44 separate occasions to draft the proposed consent agreement now being considered by the Detroit City Council.

“The fruit of a poisoned tree is no good,” says Greg Bowens, a spokesman for the union coalition. “And the consent agreement, or whatever agreement, will be struck down. Thrown out.”

Labor leaders are furious because they negotiated major concessions with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, and ratified the agreement last week.

But state officials say those deals don’t do enough to cut costs.

Under a consent agreement, the state is demanding that unions either make more steep concessions and changes, or the city will exercise broad powers to impose contracts.

Chris Brown, Detroit’s chief operating officer, admits there’s a problem here.

“We came in good faith at those bargaining situations, and we continue to believe that many of the provisions in the tentative agreements are very strong,” Brown said Thursday. “However, there could be provisions that the state is saying they want changed. So we’re between a rock and a hard place.”

A court hearing on the issue is set for April 9th.

That’s after an April 5th deadline for the two sides to reach some kind of agreement to keep an emergency manager out of Detroit.

State officials, however, insist that shouldn’t make affect the review team process.

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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