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City workers "fired up" over bankruptcy, loss of pension, protest in Detroit

Alana Holland, Michigan Radio

"Fired up! Can't take no more! Fired up! Can't take no more!"

That's what city workers chanted as they marched outside the U.S. District Courthouse in Detroit this afternoon.

Regarding the city bankruptcy plans, they filled the steps of the courthouse to make their voice heard. The city workers want Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to realize that these plans affect those who work every day in the city, as firefighters, bus drivers, and more. They say those who they elected need to put the people first, and they think this plan attacks the workers and retirees.

Credit Alana Holland, Michigan Radio
Edward McNeil

"I think it's just a tragedy," says Edward McNeil, a representative of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25, "That when people don't recognize that we have a Governor, elected by the state of Michigan, who has continued to not uphold the state constitution he swore to uphold. That's just incredible. We have a governor and attorney general who do not do their job."

Among the effects of the bankruptcy plan, city workers' retirement pensions could be in danger.

"We're going to stand up for the right of the individual," said McNeil, "Our members, their pension is around $1,600 that they get a month. Which is not a lot of money. And we're talking about people who have to decide things based on the cost of living everyday."

Credit Alana Holland, Michigan Radio
Marcus Hughey

One of those workers is Marcus Hughey. He is a disabled veteran, and a worker at the Department of Transportation for the past 19 years. With fear of losing his retirement pension, Hughey is worried about the future of his family.

"You know what I can tell you?" Hughey told Michigan Radio, "If I thought that this would happen, if I didn't think I would have my pension to count on, I wouldn't have stayed here 19 years. But now, now what? I'm 19 years in, and I have to make some decisions."

Even though Hughey may have to make some changes, he says he does not feel like Detroit  has completely turned on him.

"Do I feel betrayed by the city of Detroit? No. I am the city of Detroit. All my life," Hughey said, "I'm scared, I'm worried about it. I broke my body down, what options do I have now? If I don't get the pension I worked for. I didn't work for an elaborate lifestyle. I have meager means. But at the end of the rainbow, I was supposed to get medical care, my pension. That's why we stayed here."

Hughey also said he has a son who is a Freshman at Wayne State University who wants to be a doctor.

"Yeah, and Dad has to take care of that," Hughey said.

So now, they wait.

City employees and pensioners may still have a chance to make their case against pension cuts in federal court.

-Alana Holland, Michigan Radio Newsroom