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Happiness, relief for unions as emergency manager law heads to the ballot

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Public employee union leaders are ecstatic that a referendum challenging the state’s emergency manager law will be on the November ballot.

They’ve fiercely opposed the law in large part because emergency managers have the power to alter or throw out collectively-bargained contracts.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) was perhaps the single biggest organizing force behind the referendum campaign.

Al Garrett, President of AFSCME Council 25, accuses the law’s supporters of stalling tactics to keep the referendum off the ballot as long as possible. The emergency manager law will be suspended once a state election board meets to officially put the question on the ballot.

But Garrett says given the drawn-out process, they’re happy the question made it to the ballot a few weeks before the final deadline.

]“We thought we were gonna get on the ballot, sometime between August 26 and 27, we would get the decision, which would afford the city and the school district to dismantle as much as they probably envisioned dismantling. Now the question is, can we put it back in the bottle or not?”’

And Garret says unions will continue their legal battles against actions taken under the law.

“Those challenges still go on. But now it’s about how do we mobilize forces to make sure this thing gets…rejected, on the ballot.”

Garrett says this also calls Detroit’s consent agreement with the state into question. State and city officials disagree.

Mayor Dave Bing said in a statement that agreement “remains in effect,” and is “a critical tool” in stabilizing the city’s finances.

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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