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Picket the Auto Show Sun, Jan 8th!

Open Letter from the President to the AFSCME Local 2920 Membership

Dear AFSCME Local 2920 Members,

I HOPE ALL OF YOU had Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year! This New Year presents both challenges and opportunities for us as city workers and Detroit citizens; we are faced with a contract fight and a struggle against the erosion of our city services. The struggle ahead will require a great deal of resolve and sacrifice from each and every one of you. Truly, the fight before us must be viewed as an opportunity to stop the continued attacks on us and to improve our jobs and neighborhoods. We must approach this year with a renewed sense of power to fight for our futures and the future of Detroit!

Throughout 2005, workers from all over the country faced challenges similar to our own. We have seen workers get screwed by their bosses; but we have also seen workers fight back against the cuts and win! The recent transit worker strikes in Philadelphia and New York City are proof you can fight and win. The New York transit workers won raises totaling 10.5% over 3 years, back pay in pension contributions (about $14,000 per member for 50% of 33,700 members) and stopped the major pension concessions - the primary concession management was seeking. Most importantly, the Union proved its power when it went on strike; it demonstrated that through courage and solidarity, the union was capable of bringing New York City to its knees. The transit management will certainly treat their workers with a different kind of respect and approach contract negotiations more cautiously in the future.

Mayor Kilpatrick also wants concessions from us and is prepared to take his marching orders from big business. When Mayor Kilpatrick met with Wall Street in December 2005, they let him know that they were not impressed with the layoffs and cuts he has already made. Even though he had laid off over 2,000 city workers and eliminated another 2,000 vacancies. Now, he is laying off another 400 workers this month - mostly at the Zoo, Historical Museum and Recreation. He has already shut down departments, eliminated services and contracted out millions of dollars of city work. But Wall Street wants sharper and deeper cuts to the city workforce and to city services. Above all, Wall Street wants Kilpatrick to break the backs of the Detroit city unions so that big business interests can run Detroit for their own profits with no opposition.

In an attempt to please big business, Mayor Kilpatrick wants major contract concessions from us. The Mayor's wage offer is -10%, 2%, 2%, but the raises don't take effect until June 30th, 2008 at 11:59pm. His healthcare demands could amount to 20% of your income going to health care costs and prescription drugs. Essentially, Mayor Kilpatrick wants a 10% pay cut this fiscal year, followed by a two-year wage freeze, all while we come out our pockets for additional healthcare costs. The AFSCME bargaining team needs both support and pressure from the membership! For 10 months the bargaining team has rightly refused to agree to concessions. The membership from all 18 AFSCME City locals must let the team know that we are willing to fight the concessions and are willing to fight for our futures as workers and citizens in Detroit. At the same time we must tell our Local presidents that we will not accept Kilpatrick's attempts to impoverish us!

At the same time the right-wing is slashing jobs and public and social services, they are attacking affirmative action. The right-wing seeks to eliminate affirmative action in Michigan. They are attempting to put a proposal on the November 2006 ballot that would ban affirmative action in Michigan. The elimination of affirmative action in Michigan will have devastating effects on the ability for blacks, Latinos and other minorities, as well as all women, to attend colleges and universities, get jobs and promotions, decent housing, minority business contracts and more. The agenda of the right-wing is to force us back into the days of Jim Crow - deepening the segregation, poverty and inequities that continue to plague Detroit. City workers must see themselves as integral to defeating this racist and sexist ballot proposal. Attend the Michigan Civil Rights Commission's Hearing on the fraudulent, racist anti-affirmative action campaign, Wednesday, January 11, 6 PM, Room L in the Cadillac Place (old GM Building), W. Grand Blvd. at 2nd Ave.

For the last 4 years, City workers have played an essential role in resisting the attempts of big business to cut city services and to balance the budget on the backs of impoverished workers. In past years, we have successfully resisted some layoffs, privatization efforts, operations closures and service cuts. In addition, Local 2920 members and other city workers played an important role in the successful fight to defeat Proposal E, giving the power back to Detroiters to run our school board. City workers must continue to play a crucial leadership role - this is more than a contract fight, it is a civil rights fight - the fight for equal access to quality jobs and services - on this side of 8 Mile Road.

City workers MUST take action NOW! It is essential that city workers understand how powerful we are. Mayor Kilpatrick is very vulnerable. He won his re-election by the skin of his teeth and has miles to go to reestablish his credibility. City workers must make clear that we will not back down and allow him to balance the budget on our backs. We won't allow him to break the resolve of the City's unionized workforce.

The City workers' fight is all of Detroit's fight! City workers are fighting to defend the right for working class people to have a decent quality of life; we all benefit when working people hold up the standard. We must let the public know that our fight is for the preservation of jobs and benefits in this City and standing up for Detroit's youth to have a chance for a future. This fight is also about defending public resources; privatization and contracting out removes the power of Detroit citizens to operate our City in our best interests. We have already lost the DIA, the Belle Isle Zoo and Aquarium; we are losing eleven (11) Recreation centers (with more to come), the Historical Museum, the Zoo, and Eastern Market. Mayor Kilpatrick has indicated that he would like to see the City "get out of the business" of bus service, public lighting, and public health services. We must stop the sale of Detroit together!

Picket the Auto Show this Sunday, January 8, 2005!

This Sunday is the International Press Day at the Auto Show and the whole world will be watching. We have an opportunity to send a message around the world that Detroit workers and citizens will not lie down and watch the deterioration of our City and livelihoods! Local 2920 members must come out and join UAW workers and other AFSCME members to fight the Mayor and his big business cronies' attacks on our quality of life. We have an important opportunity to link the struggles of private and public workers for job security, decent wages, health benefits and pensions. We must send a message to Mayor Kilpatrick and all of big business that we demand a better future for Detroit and our children and we are willing to fight together to win!

Let's show solidarity with AFSCME Local 207 and members of the United Auto Workers this Sunday, January 8, 2006 from 12pm to 4pm. Meet at the AFSCME Union Hall (600 W. Lafayette @ Third) at 12pm. Let's start the New Year out with a bang - let the Mayor know we mean business! For more information, contact me at the local union office at (313) 964-0685.

In Solidarity,

Emily Kunze
AFSCME Local 2920

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