The stumbling toward a Detroit City Council vote on a proposed “Financial Stability Agreement” with the state Treasury Department is starting to look like one of those gambits in an ol’ Indiana Jones movie: As soon as they tip-toe over the rotting bridge, skirt the poison darts and dodge the spring-loaded blades, a giant boulder comes rolling their way. Council is set to vote on the controversial measure at 1 p.m. Monday, but not if the one of the city’s major unions has anything to say about it.
“Ed McNeil, special assistant to AFSCME President Al Garrett, filed the lawsuit late Thursday in Lansing arguing Snyder and the board have violated the Open Meetings Act in crafting the latest financial agreement to keep Detroit from an emergency manager,” The Detroit News reported today. “‘It is time for everything they are doing in the dark to come to the light,’” he said.
It already has. For the better part of a week — more if you’ve been reading between the lines — Gov. Rick Snyder and ranking members of his administration have been signaling that the “historic” concessions reached by bargainers for Mayor Dave Bing and the city’s unions fall woefully short of the truly landmark deals that would help get the city back on sound financial footing. And the issue, as should be apparent by the details of the the proposed financial stability agreement, is not so much wages as it is benefits and, especially, work rules.
Like the United Auto Workers before them, inexorably sucked as they were into the miasma of the Detroit auto bailouts, the city’s unions are ensnared in a similar predicament: They can ask an Ingham County judge to declare the state in violation of the state Open Meetings Act, as they have; they can pressure, lobby and cajole just enough council members to vote against the agreement Monday; they can plan demonstrations and who knows what else in protest.
But the simple fact is that Detroit’s financial slide has reached the point of no return: Either council will enter into the proposed agreement, albeit with some expected tweaks, or the governor will be forced under state law to appoint an emergency manager. Even worse, for the unions and the city, neighboring localities and the state itself, would be to collapse into the federal bankruptcy court. If there’s a time where the old adage “be careful what you wish for” applies, this is one of those times.