Detroit’s Emergency Manager Cuts Teacher Pay By 10 Percent, Ignoring Union Contract

Thousands protest Michigan's education cuts in May.

Just a year and a half ago, Detroit Public School employees accepted a $93 million wage concession. But that isn’t enough for the undemocratically appointed Emergency Manager of Detroit, Roy Roberts, who last Friday ignored teachers’ union contracts and cut wages by 10 percent across the board.

The 10 percent reduction will translate to a wage cut of $7,300 for every teacher. The cuts will also be devastating for other DPS employees like food service workers and bus attendants, some of whom make less than $24,000 a year and will now be forced to go on public assistance to get by:

Wielding power under a new state law to modify union contracts, Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts this morning imposed a 10 percent wage cut on all employees and moved the district to a less costly benefits plan.

The move, announced by Roberts this morning at a meeting with leaders of eight unions representing nearly 10,000 employees, will save DPS $81.8 million dollars this year alone at a time when the district is struggling with a $327 million budget deficit.

Roberts became the first emergency manager of a Michigan school district to use the power of the state’s Emergency Manager Law to modify existing collective bargaining agreements.

All 10,000 workers in the district – union and nonunion – will see the 10 percent cut in their paychecks starting on August 23, and will begin to pay 20 percent of health care benefits costs starting September 1. Other cuts include ending payments for unused sick days and for teaching in oversized classrooms. The budget also closes 11 schools and calls for nearly 800 layoffs.

The emergency manager appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder (R) first announced the wage concession last month when the district released it annual budget. Union leaders have balked at the cuts and pledged to fight the move. There’s speculation that teachers may strike or not show up for school this fall in protest, and the unions are considering legal action for breach of contract. Unions have already given millions in concessions to Roberts’ predecessor, Robert Bobb.

Many believe Roberts’ decision will further fuel efforts to strike down Michigan’s emergency manager law, which is already deeply unpopular. In May, Snyder amended state law to give emergency managers broad powers, including the ability to reject, modify or terminate collective bargaining agreements.

Opponents of the law are trying to get a voter referendum on the ballot in November 2012. According to a recent poll, 53 percent of the likely Michigan voters would reject it and only 34 percent would vote to keep it.