Incredible Bangladeshi garment workers hold boss hostage for promised bonuses in an act of desperationOctober 15, 2013
Minimun-wage workers in a garment factory in Bangladesh finally extracted a long-promised bonus from their boss after holding him captive in the factory for over 18 hours.
The factory boss — who was unharmed — had held back payment of worker bonuses for the Eid al-Adha holiday. Unions are celebrating the success of the bold worker action as a “positive development” in the context of a long fought labor dispute.
The workers forced their way into the office of owner Delwar Hossain and locked him in when he said no money was available.
Police, relatives of the owners and the factory owners’ group, the BGMEA, launched talks with the protesters and a police official said Hossain was released after bonuses were paid to 900 workers late on Sunday.
“I see it as a positive movement as the workers were not violent and were able to realize their demand peacefully,” said Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers’ Federation trade union.

Source

Incredible Bangladeshi garment workers hold boss hostage for promised bonuses in an act of desperation
October 15, 2013

Minimun-wage workers in a garment factory in Bangladesh finally extracted a long-promised bonus from their boss after holding him captive in the factory for over 18 hours.

The factory boss — who was unharmed — had held back payment of worker bonuses for the Eid al-Adha holiday. Unions are celebrating the success of the bold worker action as a “positive development” in the context of a long fought labor dispute.

The workers forced their way into the office of owner Delwar Hossain and locked him in when he said no money was available.

Police, relatives of the owners and the factory owners’ group, the BGMEA, launched talks with the protesters and a police official said Hossain was released after bonuses were paid to 900 workers late on Sunday.

“I see it as a positive movement as the workers were not violent and were able to realize their demand peacefully,” said Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers’ Federation trade union.

Source

More than 100,000 of Colombian farm workers ban together in protest
August 20, 2013

Thousands of Colombian farm workers have staged protest marches in rural areas, demanding national dialogue on land access and government subsidies.

Eberto Diaz, one of the organizers reported that more than 150,000 workers joined rallies nationwide on Monday. According only to understated police estimates, some 20 rallies and four major demonstrations were held and 11 roadblocks had been set up by the protesters. Authorities deployed 56 tow trucks to dismantle the roadblocks and there were also 13 aircraft which monitored the protests. 

In addition, police Chief Rodolfo Palomino reported 22 arrests and more reliable sources said eight people were injured in clashes. Organizers demand President Juan Manuel Santos to set up a national dialogue to discuss land and other farm related issues, including subsidies to coffee farmers. Santos promised higher subsidies in March, however, farmers said that it is not enough, as coffee growers have seen a 40 percent drop in international prices over the past year. 

The protest was supported by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who called the rallies a valid response to “neoliberal economic policies.” 

Meanwhile, Santos had urged the workers for the past few weeks to call off the strike. On August 15, Santos voiced his frustration over the workers’ refusal to cancel, calling them for “useful idiots” who were being manipulated by powerful political interests against him. 

Another day of protest is scheduled for August 20 with other sectors joining the rallies. ”Truckers and miners are also going to join. Certainly tomorrow more people will be joining,” said Diaz. 

Miners are demanding that the government cancels new rules requiring all mines to be licensed, citing that the regulation clears the way for foreign mining companies. 

Colombia is struggling with a financial slowdown after three years of strong growth. Analysts blame the slowdown on neoliberal globalization and capitalist privatization.

Source

Workers to protest low pay and wage theft at federal buildings
July 2, 2013

A group representing service employees has organized a morning of demonstrations and civil disobedience at various locations throughout the capital on Tuesday to protest low pay and reported wage theft by vendors at federal buildings.

Good Jobs Nation, which represents low-wage employees of government contractors, plans to start the day with a mock trial in an intersection near the Ronald Reagan Building, according to organizers.

The group also plans to hold a press conference at D.C.’s municipal headquarters and “protests, civil disobedience” near the General Services Administration building.

Last week, Good Jobs Nation filed a complaint with the Labor Department alleging wage theft by food vendors contracting with GSA. The group claims that eight franchises operating at the Reagan Building have paid employees less than the minimum wage and ignored rules on overtime pay.

The Labor Department is investigating the allegations, according to an agency spokesperson.

At D.C.’s municipal headquarters, district council members Kenyan McDuffie and Tommy Wells are scheduled to join low-wage workers and clergy in calling on President Obama to issue an executive order that would require federal contractors to pay a “living wage.”

Good Jobs Nation said it represents the interests of more than 2 million low-wage employees who work for government contractors — doing anything from greeting visitors and selling memorabilia to driving trucks and making military uniforms. The group claims the federal government has created more low-wage jobs than Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, based on research from the Demos advocacy group.

“Hundreds of billions of dollars in federal contracts, grants, loans, concession agreements, and property leases to large, profitable corporations that pay their CEOs millions in salaries and bonuses but pay their workers such low wages that they are unable to afford basic necessities like food, clothing, and rent,” Good Jobs Nation said in a statement.

Trade Center Management Associates, the firm that manages the Reagan Building, said in a statement last week that it would take appropriate action if the Labor Department determines that food vendors in the facility have violated federal guidelines.

Good Jobs Nation held its first demonstration in May (see above photos), when service workers at federal buildings walked off the job to protest low wages. The group also staged a protest last Tuesday, when it delivered the complaint with the Labor Department.

Source

Walmart employees gather in Bentonville to show shareholders they will NOT back down, despite severe intimidation from the corrupt corporation
June 3, 2013

Striking workers protested outside Walmart’s home office in Bentonville Monday morning (June 3) as corrupt shareholders began arriving in town for this year’s annual shareholders meeting.

A Walmart spokesman lied, claiming that not all protesters are associates (as if that makes Walmarts’ heinous policies any less horrific), however the protesters report that they are all Walmart employees, and have made clear that they are protesting because they want higher wages, better benefits and more respect from the capitalist juggernaut. 

Source

Spanish firefighters clash with riot police during a protest against proposed spending cuts in Barcelona on May 29. Hundreds of firefighters had earlier gathered in front of the Catalonian parliament building, lighting flares, throwing smoke bombs and burning coffins labelled ‘public services’.The firefighters’ union warned that cuts to staff and budgets proposed as part of Spain’s broader program of austerity would “put at risk the safety of workers and the people of Catalonia.”

Spanish firefighters clash with riot police during a protest against proposed spending cuts in Barcelona on May 29. Hundreds of firefighters had earlier gathered in front of the Catalonian parliament building, lighting flares, throwing smoke bombs and burning coffins labelled ‘public services’.

The firefighters’ union warned that cuts to staff and budgets proposed as part of Spain’s broader program of austerity would “put at risk the safety of workers and the people of Catalonia.”

Wal-Mart workers plan a fresh protest, this time in Bentonville
May 29, 2013

The last time most people heard about OUR Walmart, it was the busiest shopping day of the year and some Wal-Mart employees had walked off the job. They were members of the union-backed group and they had defied the biggest private employer in America by holding protests at stores around the country on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The group’s full name is Organization United for Respect at Walmart, and its members were asking for a greater number of full-time jobs, with predictable schedules and wages that could provide their families a decent life. (I wrote about the movement in December.)

Now OUR Walmart members are planning another protest on another important day: the company’s annual shareholder meeting. It takes place at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., on June 7. OUR Walmart says about 100 members from the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Washington, Miami, and a dozen other cities will head to Bentonville this week in a bus caravan they’re calling the “Ride for Respect.” They expect to arrive by Sunday, June 2.

“This is the first time in my life I’m standing up for something I know is right,” says Barbara Getz, who is 45 years old and makes $10 an hour as an overnight stocker in Store No. 5334 in Aurora, Colo. “Walmart is the biggest retailer in the world, and we want them to set a high standard.” Among the group’s requests: full-time work for those who want it, with a minimum yearly salary of $25,000. Dominic Ware will be on a bus, too. He’s a 26-year-old part-time employee at Store No. 5434 in San Leandro, Calif. He makes $8.65 an hour. “My plan is to make a lot of noise and be direct and be respectful,” he says.

Walmart has been opposed to unions since Sam Walton opened his first store in Rogers, Ark., in 1962. And, though OUR Walmart says it isn’t seeking legal recognition, executives have criticized its efforts. “Our annual shareholders’ meeting is a celebration of our 2.2 million associates who work hard every day so people around the world can live better,” says Walmart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan in an e-mail. “The Union and its subsidiary, ‘Our Walmart,’ is comprised of a few number of people, most of whom aren’t even Walmart associates and don’t represent the views of our associates. This latest publicity stunt by the unions to generate attention for their fleeting cause won’t impact the festivities.”

Source

U.S. seeks inspiration in Basque cooperative model Mondragón. An article in Time magazine praises the economic model of the industrial group MCC, which has become a benchmark in several US declined areas.
May 20, 2013

When companies all over the world are struggling to fight crisis, and while every country has an eye on the United States to find out when the depression will end, it follows that outstanding North American businessmen are seeing the light through the Arrasate-Mondragón cooperatives.

According to an article appeared in the latest issue of Time magazine, executives in charge of enterprise planning and union leaders of the previously buoyant and today depressed industrial belt of Cleveland, Ohio, are seeking inspiration in the economic, industrial and social model of the Arrasate-Mondragón area.

The magazine included a report which analyzed the origins of the current corporation founded by the Arizmendiarreta priest, whose success is supported, according to the publication, by the fact that nowadays, MCC is the seventh state’s industrial group and one of the most profitable.

According to figures provided by the writer, MCC is a multidisciplinary group that brings together 256 companies and employs more 100,000 people. Anyway, the interest is focused on the original basis of making the employees members of the enterprise. Those members often have a close association with the company as producers or consumers of its products or services, or as its employees.

Therefore, Time stresses that MCC holds its commitment “to one-worker, one-vote democratic governance through a complex, carefully honed organizational structure in which the corporation serves as a kind of meta-cooperative for the individual companies.”

The article presents the broad spectrum of companies of the Basque group, which ranges from manufacturing equipment, bicycles, and electronics, to an university and its own savings bank, Caja Laboral. Time says that, while many people look to cooperatives as activities at a “hippie small scale,” Mondragón is a consolidated and successful business whose revenue, in spite of the full depression of the Spanish economy, grew by 6 % last year.

According to the magazine, some companies in the Ohio state want the workers to get involved in the capital and the management of the company, and seek more balanced development patterns with a philosophy of reinvesting profits. This would be one of the hallmarks of MCC: instead of “flowing into the pockets of executives and outside investors, a company’s profits are distributed in a precise, democratic way; set aside as seed money for new cooperatives; distributed to regional nonprofits; or pooled into shared institutions like the university and research center.”

But the Mondragón template goes further and Time quotes a bakery cooperative in the Bay Area of San Francisco, California. Its four partners -soon to be six-, have chosen a particular name for their brand: Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives.

Source

Aam Aadmi Party workers today protested outside residences of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and local MLAs on the issues of rising prices of power and water, and women’s safety in the national capital. 
May 19, 2013

While demonstrating outside the CM’s residence, some workers were detained and sent to Tuglak Road Police Station, a statement released by Aam Aadmi Party said. AAP workers claimed that a number of volunteers were injured during police action at the time of the protest. 

"In Shahdara, AAP volunteers, including several women and children, were hurt when they were protesting outside Congress MLA Narendra Nath’s residence. Around 20 volunteers were detained by the police outside his house and taken to Farsh Bazar Station," the statement said. 

When AAP volunteers tried to gherao local MLA and senior Congress leader Kiran Walia’s house in Malviya Nagar, they were detained by police and taken to local police station, it said. Workers, who went to meet area MLA in Gandhi Nagar, were arrested and taken to Kalyanpuri Police station when they tried to confront their MLA, the statement said. MLAs refused to meet the AAP workers, the statement added.

Source

Aam Aadmi Party is an Indian political party launched on 26 November 2012. ‘Aam Aadmi’ in Hindi means ‘Common Man’. The name was adopted by the Party as it aims to represent common Wo/man of India and to bring political power back into the people’s hands. One of the party’s primary vision is to realize the dream of ‘SWARAJ’ or ‘Self-governance’ that Mahatma Gandhi had envisaged for a free India - where the power of governance and rights of democracy will be in the hands of the people of India.

Source

Walmart opts out of Bangladesh safety agreementMay 15, 2013
Walmart has confirmed it will not sign up to a legally binding agreement on worker safety and building regulations in Bangladesh supported by retailers including H&M, Zara, Primark, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer, Next, C&A and several others.
However, the US retail giant has created its own agreement, which it claims goes beyond the current accord that was drafted by labour groups and campaigners.
The company, which also owns the UK’s third biggest supermarket, Asda, said the deal signed by its rivals was “unnecessary to achieve fire and safety goals” and questioned the “governance and dispute-resolution mechanisms”.
Instead, Walmart has agreed its own deal to inspect all 279 factories it uses in Bangladesh within six months, and has promised to publish the findings immediately.
Bosses claim this goes beyond the UNI Global Union and IndustriALL deal, pointing out the agreement requires 65% of inspections instead of 100% inspections taking place and argue its own deal means results are published straight away rather than within 45 days.
However, the Walmart deal is not legally binding, does not require the company to offer financial support for fire and safety regulations and blacklist factories unwilling to comply.
The agreement has been criticised by campaigners as a “business as usual” approach, which fails to address the core problems that led to the Rana Plaza factory collapse.
Sam Maher from Labour Behind the Label, said: “Walmart’s so-called new programme is simply more of the same ineffective auditing that failed to prevent the Rana Plaza disaster, or the deaths of 112 workers at Tazreen, who were producing Walmart goods.
"The changes demanded by the IndustriALL accord, include ensuring that factories are provided with the incentives and investment needed to actually make factories safe and are essential for any real change to occur. What Walmart are demanding is business as usual: a business that has cost lives of over 1,300 workers in the last six months alone."
Walmart has also refused to clarify whether it sourced clothes from the Rana Plaza building, saying only that it had no “authorised” production at the site.
A statement from Walmart said: “The company, like a number of other retailers, is not in a position to sign the IndustriALL accord at this time.
"While we agree with much of the proposal, the IndustriALL plan also introduces requirements, including governance and dispute resolution mechanisms, on supply chain matters that are appropriately left to retailers, suppliers and government, and are unnecessary to achieve fire and safety goals."
Several major UK retailers have declined to sign the agreement, including Arcadia group, the company behind brands including Topshop, Bhs and Dorothy Perkins; Debenhams; River Island; Matalan and Peacocks.
However, late on Tuesday night Next, the UK’s second biggest clothing retailer, did agree to sign.
Walmart’s decision leaves George at Asda, the supermarket’s clothing brand, at odds with its own position as a founding member of the Ethical Trading Initiative.
The ETI, the UK’s biggest alliance of businesses, trade unions and voluntary organisations, has recommended its members sign up to the accord.
Source
Once more: “What Walmart are demanding is business as usual: a business that has cost lives of over 1,300 workers in the last six months alone.”

Walmart opts out of Bangladesh safety agreement
May 15, 2013

Walmart has confirmed it will not sign up to a legally binding agreement on worker safety and building regulations in Bangladesh supported by retailers including H&M, Zara, Primark, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer, Next, C&A and several others.

However, the US retail giant has created its own agreement, which it claims goes beyond the current accord that was drafted by labour groups and campaigners.

The company, which also owns the UK’s third biggest supermarket, Asda, said the deal signed by its rivals was “unnecessary to achieve fire and safety goals” and questioned the “governance and dispute-resolution mechanisms”.

Instead, Walmart has agreed its own deal to inspect all 279 factories it uses in Bangladesh within six months, and has promised to publish the findings immediately.

Bosses claim this goes beyond the UNI Global Union and IndustriALL deal, pointing out the agreement requires 65% of inspections instead of 100% inspections taking place and argue its own deal means results are published straight away rather than within 45 days.

However, the Walmart deal is not legally binding, does not require the company to offer financial support for fire and safety regulations and blacklist factories unwilling to comply.

The agreement has been criticised by campaigners as a “business as usual” approach, which fails to address the core problems that led to the Rana Plaza factory collapse.

Sam Maher from Labour Behind the Label, said: “Walmart’s so-called new programme is simply more of the same ineffective auditing that failed to prevent the Rana Plaza disaster, or the deaths of 112 workers at Tazreen, who were producing Walmart goods.

"The changes demanded by the IndustriALL accord, include ensuring that factories are provided with the incentives and investment needed to actually make factories safe and are essential for any real change to occur. What Walmart are demanding is business as usual: a business that has cost lives of over 1,300 workers in the last six months alone."

Walmart has also refused to clarify whether it sourced clothes from the Rana Plaza building, saying only that it had no “authorised” production at the site.

A statement from Walmart said: “The company, like a number of other retailers, is not in a position to sign the IndustriALL accord at this time.

"While we agree with much of the proposal, the IndustriALL plan also introduces requirements, including governance and dispute resolution mechanisms, on supply chain matters that are appropriately left to retailers, suppliers and government, and are unnecessary to achieve fire and safety goals."

Several major UK retailers have declined to sign the agreement, including Arcadia group, the company behind brands including Topshop, Bhs and Dorothy Perkins; Debenhams; River Island; Matalan and Peacocks.

However, late on Tuesday night Next, the UK’s second biggest clothing retailer, did agree to sign.

Walmart’s decision leaves George at Asda, the supermarket’s clothing brand, at odds with its own position as a founding member of the Ethical Trading Initiative.

The ETI, the UK’s biggest alliance of businesses, trade unions and voluntary organisations, has recommended its members sign up to the accord.

Source

Once more: “What Walmart are demanding is business as usual: a business that has cost lives of over 1,300 workers in the last six months alone.”

Detroit’s emergency manager outlines slash & burn “restructuring” plan: Slash wages & city services, privatizationMay 14, 2013
Detroit’s emergency manager released a report on Monday, outlining a “comprehensive restructuring plan” for the city involving savage cuts to city workers’ jobs, wages and pensions and the shutdown of services to a large section of the population.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder appointed Kevyn Orr, a former Washington, DC bankruptcy attorney, as emergency manager on March 14. Under the state’s emergency manager law, Orr was mandated to issue a preliminary Financial and Operating Plan within 45 days.
The plan was drawn up in close collaboration with Andy Dillon, a former hedge fund manager and Democratic Speaker of the State House of Representatives, picked by Snyder as state treasurer.
The report begins with a lie, claiming that measures about to be unleashed in Detroit are aimed at improving the “governmental services essential to the public health, safety and welfare of its citizens.” In fact, the aim is to extract every penny possible from the working class to pay back an estimated $9.4 billion in debt, which currently costs the city $246 million to service, or 19.3 percent of the General Fund budget.
Orr’s former law firm, Jones Day, represents some of the same Wall Street banks—including Bank of America and UBS—that have profited from its financial misery.
In the report, Orr paints a dire picture of the financial state of Detroit. Unemployment has tripled since 2000 and is now officially at 18.3 percent. State revenue sharing has fallen by $160 million, or nearly 50 percent from its peak of $334 million in 2002. There has been a 40 percent decline in income tax since 2000, with a loss of $145 million.
These conditions are an indictment of the capitalist system. They point in particular to the devastating impact of the financial crash of 2008, which led to hemorrhaging of the auto industry, a wave of foreclosures and sharp cuts in federal and state aid. But nowhere is there any suggestion that the corporate and financial elite should be made to pay for the catastrophe they wrought. As a hatchet man for the banks, Orr, like Obama and the Republicans in Washington, is seeking to exploit this crisis to further enrich the financial criminals at the top.
According to Orr his plan has three principles. The first is “improving public safety and promoting reinvestment in the city.” These are code words for ridding the city of “undesirable” elements, including large numbers of unemployed and impoverished workers, and making way for the redevelopment plans of multi-billionaires like Little Caesars owner Mike Ilitch and Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert. Already hundreds of low-income and elderly tenants are being evicted from apartments in the downtown area targeted for the development of upscale housing and shopping.
The second principle, according to Orr, is “evaluating and restructuring the City’s long term liabilities.” This means slashing the pensions and medical benefits of tens of thousands of retired city workers and their families. In his report, Orr complains that there are now more retirees, 18,500, collecting benefits, compared to 10,000 active city workers. The emergency manager, he states, plans to “reduce or eliminate certain healthcare costs for both active and retired employees” and “suggest modifications to the [pension] plans…”
The third principle is “evaluating and streamlining the City’s operations,” which entails an acceleration of the plans by Democratic mayor David Bing to downsize the city by eliminating services in areas deemed too poor or under-populated.
The city, Orr writes, has already developed strategies to address what he calls the “surplus land” issue, using three neighborhood categories (steady, transitional and distressed) to determine whether services in these areas will continue. This strategy, which would be incorporated into the comprehensive plan, would include a “coordinated program of foreclosures, demolition, public/private partnerships and targeted investment.”
In a press conference Monday, Orr said that the privatization of trash collection, transportation and other services were “all on the table.” He pointed to nearby Pontiac, Michigan as a model for his plan.
In that city, as the New York Times recently noted, the EM “overhauled labor contracts, sold off city assets and privatized nearly every service Pontiac once provided to citizens…Its Fire Department belongs to a nearby township. The city’s payroll, once numbering more than 600 workers, now amounts to about 50 public employees. Even parking meters have been sold.”
Other parts of Orr’s plan include:
* Reviewing “options for shared services and contract services” for the Detroit Fire Department, which has been slashed to the bone, leaving only 812 ill-equipped firefighters to cover 139 square miles.
* The possible full privatization of the Department of Transportation, which has already outsourced management duties and cut routes for its depleted bus fleet and employees.
* Turning “daily operations and programming” of the city’s remaining 17 recreation centers “over to experienced entities capable of providing improved services,” which would include “fee-based programming provided by third party operators.”
* The selloff of the Department of Public Lighting.
“The Emergency Manager believes that it is in the best interest of the citizens of Detroit for the City to exit the power supply business,” he writes. Beginning in 2014, the city will “pare down the current number of streetlights from approximately 88,000 to approximately 46,000,” providing lighting only to the “main thoroughfares and population centers.”
The first step will be to transform DPL into an “authority” with the power to issue debt. Once the city pays for infrastructure improvements, the system will be handed over to a “third party,” most likely the electric monopoly DTE Energy. Three years ago, the City Council and Bing administration approved a $150 million deal to buy 100 percent of the city’s power from DTE Energy, replacing the electricity produced by the city-owned lighting department. Before becoming mayor, David Bing, sat on DTE’s board of directors for two decades, and former DTE CEO Anthony Early was the chairman of his election campaign.
Also being targeted for privatization is the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, one of the largest municipal water departments in the nation. Orr writes that he will evaluate all options regarding public assets, including “entering in partnerships with other public entities, outsourcing of operations and transferring non-core assets to other private or public entities in sale, lease or other transactions.”
In regards to labor costs, Orr says the city has “made great strides” under the Consent Agreement reached between the city government and the governor last year, “in reducing costs imposed by its numerous active and expired collective bargaining agreements between the City and various labor organizations.”
This included the unilateral implementation of “City Employment Terms,” which froze or reduced active employee benefits, reduced or eliminated pension and retiree medical benefits and imposed a 10 percent wage cut. It also gutted seniority protections, expanded management rights, changed shifts, hours of operation and overtime procedures and revised or eliminated job classifications.
Nevertheless, Orr complains that these concessions have not been uniformly applied to all bargaining units. The emergency manager’s “labor strategy will be developed with a view that any concessions are equitably distributed across” the city’s entire workforce.
While the emergency manager law suspends the city’s duty to bargain under the Public Relations Act and empowers him to “reject, modify or terminate” collective bargaining agreements, Orr states that he has willingly negotiated with the unions. In this, he is counting on the complicity of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and other unions to reach what he calls a “consensual agreement” and block any resistance by workers to the demands of the banks.
“Overall, employee headcount ultimately may be lower in the future than it is today,” he adds. At the same time, a new “compensation structure” will be established to retain “high performing individuals,” by which he means the army of highly paid consultants and turnaround specialists he is bringing in to help loot the city.
On the eve of the report’s release, Orr’s press secretary Bill Knowling said, “Unless we change and restructure city operations, it’s not going to get any better. That’s a message to the capital markets… If we stop providing services, and basically stop functioning as a city and only paid our debts but kept collecting taxes, we couldn’t pay it off in 20 years.”
Here Knowling may have said more than he intended. The essential purpose of Orr’s plan is to transform the city into little more than a cash machine for the banks and big business. To pay off the wealthy bondholder in the next few years, instead of twenty, will require the suspension of city services for virtually everyone but the well-to-do and a limited number of workers who service them.
As for his boss, Orr made it clear he is essentially a dictator for the banks and oblivious to the concerns of the working people in the city. “The public can comment,” he told WWJ radio, “but it is under the statute, it is my plan and it’s within my discretion and obligation to do it. This isn’t a plebiscite, we are not, like, negotiating the terms of the plan.”
SourcePhoto

Detroit’s emergency manager outlines slash & burn “restructuring” plan: Slash wages & city services, privatization
May 14, 2013

Detroit’s emergency manager released a report on Monday, outlining a “comprehensive restructuring plan” for the city involving savage cuts to city workers’ jobs, wages and pensions and the shutdown of services to a large section of the population.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder appointed Kevyn Orr, a former Washington, DC bankruptcy attorney, as emergency manager on March 14. Under the state’s emergency manager law, Orr was mandated to issue a preliminary Financial and Operating Plan within 45 days.

The plan was drawn up in close collaboration with Andy Dillon, a former hedge fund manager and Democratic Speaker of the State House of Representatives, picked by Snyder as state treasurer.

The report begins with a lie, claiming that measures about to be unleashed in Detroit are aimed at improving the “governmental services essential to the public health, safety and welfare of its citizens.” In fact, the aim is to extract every penny possible from the working class to pay back an estimated $9.4 billion in debt, which currently costs the city $246 million to service, or 19.3 percent of the General Fund budget.

Orr’s former law firm, Jones Day, represents some of the same Wall Street banks—including Bank of America and UBS—that have profited from its financial misery.

In the report, Orr paints a dire picture of the financial state of Detroit. Unemployment has tripled since 2000 and is now officially at 18.3 percent. State revenue sharing has fallen by $160 million, or nearly 50 percent from its peak of $334 million in 2002. There has been a 40 percent decline in income tax since 2000, with a loss of $145 million.

These conditions are an indictment of the capitalist system. They point in particular to the devastating impact of the financial crash of 2008, which led to hemorrhaging of the auto industry, a wave of foreclosures and sharp cuts in federal and state aid. But nowhere is there any suggestion that the corporate and financial elite should be made to pay for the catastrophe they wrought. As a hatchet man for the banks, Orr, like Obama and the Republicans in Washington, is seeking to exploit this crisis to further enrich the financial criminals at the top.

According to Orr his plan has three principles. The first is “improving public safety and promoting reinvestment in the city.” These are code words for ridding the city of “undesirable” elements, including large numbers of unemployed and impoverished workers, and making way for the redevelopment plans of multi-billionaires like Little Caesars owner Mike Ilitch and Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert. Already hundreds of low-income and elderly tenants are being evicted from apartments in the downtown area targeted for the development of upscale housing and shopping.

The second principle, according to Orr, is “evaluating and restructuring the City’s long term liabilities.” This means slashing the pensions and medical benefits of tens of thousands of retired city workers and their families. In his report, Orr complains that there are now more retirees, 18,500, collecting benefits, compared to 10,000 active city workers. The emergency manager, he states, plans to “reduce or eliminate certain healthcare costs for both active and retired employees” and “suggest modifications to the [pension] plans…”

The third principle is “evaluating and streamlining the City’s operations,” which entails an acceleration of the plans by Democratic mayor David Bing to downsize the city by eliminating services in areas deemed too poor or under-populated.

The city, Orr writes, has already developed strategies to address what he calls the “surplus land” issue, using three neighborhood categories (steady, transitional and distressed) to determine whether services in these areas will continue. This strategy, which would be incorporated into the comprehensive plan, would include a “coordinated program of foreclosures, demolition, public/private partnerships and targeted investment.”

In a press conference Monday, Orr said that the privatization of trash collection, transportation and other services were “all on the table.” He pointed to nearby Pontiac, Michigan as a model for his plan.

In that city, as the New York Times recently noted, the EM “overhauled labor contracts, sold off city assets and privatized nearly every service Pontiac once provided to citizens…Its Fire Department belongs to a nearby township. The city’s payroll, once numbering more than 600 workers, now amounts to about 50 public employees. Even parking meters have been sold.”

Other parts of Orr’s plan include:

* Reviewing “options for shared services and contract services” for the Detroit Fire Department, which has been slashed to the bone, leaving only 812 ill-equipped firefighters to cover 139 square miles.

* The possible full privatization of the Department of Transportation, which has already outsourced management duties and cut routes for its depleted bus fleet and employees.

* Turning “daily operations and programming” of the city’s remaining 17 recreation centers “over to experienced entities capable of providing improved services,” which would include “fee-based programming provided by third party operators.”

* The selloff of the Department of Public Lighting.

“The Emergency Manager believes that it is in the best interest of the citizens of Detroit for the City to exit the power supply business,” he writes. Beginning in 2014, the city will “pare down the current number of streetlights from approximately 88,000 to approximately 46,000,” providing lighting only to the “main thoroughfares and population centers.”

The first step will be to transform DPL into an “authority” with the power to issue debt. Once the city pays for infrastructure improvements, the system will be handed over to a “third party,” most likely the electric monopoly DTE Energy. Three years ago, the City Council and Bing administration approved a $150 million deal to buy 100 percent of the city’s power from DTE Energy, replacing the electricity produced by the city-owned lighting department. Before becoming mayor, David Bing, sat on DTE’s board of directors for two decades, and former DTE CEO Anthony Early was the chairman of his election campaign.

Also being targeted for privatization is the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, one of the largest municipal water departments in the nation. Orr writes that he will evaluate all options regarding public assets, including “entering in partnerships with other public entities, outsourcing of operations and transferring non-core assets to other private or public entities in sale, lease or other transactions.”

In regards to labor costs, Orr says the city has “made great strides” under the Consent Agreement reached between the city government and the governor last year, “in reducing costs imposed by its numerous active and expired collective bargaining agreements between the City and various labor organizations.”

This included the unilateral implementation of “City Employment Terms,” which froze or reduced active employee benefits, reduced or eliminated pension and retiree medical benefits and imposed a 10 percent wage cut. It also gutted seniority protections, expanded management rights, changed shifts, hours of operation and overtime procedures and revised or eliminated job classifications.

Nevertheless, Orr complains that these concessions have not been uniformly applied to all bargaining units. The emergency manager’s “labor strategy will be developed with a view that any concessions are equitably distributed across” the city’s entire workforce.

While the emergency manager law suspends the city’s duty to bargain under the Public Relations Act and empowers him to “reject, modify or terminate” collective bargaining agreements, Orr states that he has willingly negotiated with the unions. In this, he is counting on the complicity of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and other unions to reach what he calls a “consensual agreement” and block any resistance by workers to the demands of the banks.

“Overall, employee headcount ultimately may be lower in the future than it is today,” he adds. At the same time, a new “compensation structure” will be established to retain “high performing individuals,” by which he means the army of highly paid consultants and turnaround specialists he is bringing in to help loot the city.

On the eve of the report’s release, Orr’s press secretary Bill Knowling said, “Unless we change and restructure city operations, it’s not going to get any better. That’s a message to the capital markets… If we stop providing services, and basically stop functioning as a city and only paid our debts but kept collecting taxes, we couldn’t pay it off in 20 years.”

Here Knowling may have said more than he intended. The essential purpose of Orr’s plan is to transform the city into little more than a cash machine for the banks and big business. To pay off the wealthy bondholder in the next few years, instead of twenty, will require the suspension of city services for virtually everyone but the well-to-do and a limited number of workers who service them.

As for his boss, Orr made it clear he is essentially a dictator for the banks and oblivious to the concerns of the working people in the city. “The public can comment,” he told WWJ radio, “but it is under the statute, it is my plan and it’s within my discretion and obligation to do it. This isn’t a plebiscite, we are not, like, negotiating the terms of the plan.”

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Never be deceived that that rich will allow you to vote their wealth away.

Lucy Parsons, the Haymarket Square widow who internationalized the struggle for the eight-hour day and whose work led to the May Day rallies held around the world. Happy May Day!

Check this out for more on the Haymarket Martyrs, the origins of May Day, and Lucy Parsons: Lucy Parsons: An American Revolutionary

MAY 1 LOS ANGELES SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

12:00pm: Long Beach Revolutionaries : Back in Actions @ Pershing Square

2:00pm: Occupy LA Meet @ Pershing Square

2:30pm: March to Olympic and Figueroa

3:00pm: Join with Occupy Fights Foreclosures to SHUT DOWN Wells Fargo

4:00pm: Join the SCIC march @ Broadway & Olympic to march for FULL legalization for all!

7:30pm OLA General Assembly @ Pershing Square

Neighboring Occupations are also holding their own events this year! For more information, please visit their Facebook pages:

Additional Information:

This was all from that first link that was posted after the question. The other two links were for these Facebook pages:

Thank you to everyone who submitted links to answer this person’s questions!