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workers rally in Lansing
Workers Rally March 16, 2011 (Source: SEIU Local 517M)

The Washington Independent is reporting that the new law that allows Michigan's governor Rick Snyder to appointment emergency managers with broad powers to dissolve existing contracts for towns and localities is "already forcing public workers to accept new concessions."

In Flint, which received state approval for an $8 million emergency bond needed to make payroll this month and is seen as a likely target for state intervention, the firefighters union has reportedly issued a list of new concessions including increased health insurance payments and giving up holiday pay and night-shift premiums.

“I would rather give concessions that I would like than have an [emergency financial manager] or something of that magnitude come in and say this is what you are going to do,” Flint Firefighters Union President Raul Garcia told the Wall Street Journal.

The law also gives officials in financially troubled towns the ability to cancel contracts, but Flint Mayor Dayne Walling has said that double digit concessions by union workers could prevent that from happening.

In Pontiac, which along with Benton Harbor, Ecorse and the Detroit Public School system already has an emergency financial manager in place, local police voted to dissolve their union last week.

Michigan Fraternal Order of Police spokesman John Buczek said that Pontiac’s emergency financial manager Michael Stampfler had reduced the city’s police force from over 100 to just 41 and was prepared to lay off more as the new law giving him power to break contracts gained final approval....

The state teachers union, the Michigan Education Association, whose members now face possible cuts because of the new law, has asked its local units to vote by April 15 on whether the union should “initiate crisis activities up to and including job action.”

Buczek sums it up well: "It would appear once they abolish collective bargaining agreements they can just get rid of police and firefighters as they like. The people who still pay taxes in those communities have no say." Democracy, Republican style. The people of Michigan could have a say, as ThinkProgress's Ian Millhiser pointed out. The Michigan constitution allows for amendment by citizen petition and referendum: 300,000 signatures could put workers' protection on the ballot.

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