For immediate release: City of Detroit Retirees Condemn “Grand Theft Pension” – Urge “VOTE NO!”

For immediate release:

Retirees’ Press Conference Friday, May 16 at 4 PM Outside Federal Courthouse

City of Detroit Retirees Condemn “Grand Theft Pension” – Urge “VOTE NO!”

May 13, 2014

Contact: Stop Theft of Our Pensions Committee, 313-680-5508, David Sole

The Stop Theft of Our Pensions Committee urges pensioners to “VOTE NO!” to the “Grand Theft Pension Bargain”. There is no reason for even one penny of pensions to be stolen for this bankruptcy. Here’s why:

  • The Michigan Municipal League reported in March 2014 that the State of Michigan illegally kept $6.2 billion of revenue sharing funds from cities across the state. This includes $732 million kept from Detroit.
  • Over $120 million of Detroit funds were looted from the treasury to pay for “professional fees” of consultants and lawyers who only sought to enrich themselves.
  • The biggest banks are paying tens of billions of dollars in fines to the Federal government for their criminal, fraudulent and racist mortgage scams that led directly to over 100,000 foreclosures in Detroit from 2005 – 2012. Reparations should be paid Detroit from these funds.
  • The banks that foreclosed on so many homes have refused to pay property taxes to the city – to the tune of around $50 million a year for the past 7 years. Go after the banks for these unpaid taxes.
  •  Detroit should be going after the biggest banks that swindled the city with high interest “bond swaps.” Instead of paying Bank of America and UBS $85 million, EM Orr and Judge Rhodes ought to have gone after them to recover $300 million in excessive interest, fees and termination penalties already paid out.
  •  Governor Snyder and other high officials refused to use $500 million of federal funds that were supposed to “Help Hardest Hit Homeowners.” Instead they sat on these funds and now are outrageously handing tens of millions to their rich friends to tear down the same houses they were supposed to save. The remaining funds should be used to hire and train youth in Detroit to rehad homes across the city.
  •  The “Grand Bargain” documents admit that the funds set aside for health care (already slashed to the bone as of March 1, 2014) will not be enough to maintain these benefits.
  •  There is no guarantee that the funding promised by the State and the charitable foundations will be paid now or in the future. If they fail to come up with their share, pensions will be cut even further. State funding also will require that Detroit be under a colonial dictator for the next 20 years, further destroying our democratic rights.

It is unfortunate that some officials and groups feel it necessary to accept the “lesser evil” choice just at the time that retirees around the country are waking up to the danger the Detroit bankruptcy case holds for all public pension funds. The California Public Employee Retirement System, AARP, the Texas Public Employee Retirement System and the National Conference of Public Employee Retirement Systems have all recently filed amicus briefs in the constitutional appeals. Now is the time for a broad national fightback to demand “Make the Banks Pay! Not Retirees.”

The Stop Theft of Our Pensions Committee is calling for a national mobilization of active and retired workers, unions and retiree associations in Detroit at the start of the bankruptcy trial set for July 24. Weekly demonstrations are held every Friday at 4:00 P.M. outside the Federal Courthouse (231 W. Lafayette St.) called “Freedom Fridays” to protest all the proposed cuts and denial of democratic rights.

Activist retirees in the Stop Theft of Our Pensions Committee are demanding that the Pension Boards, unions and retiree associations convene mass meetings to allow a full discussion of this rotten Grand Theft Pension. Retirees must be mobilized to fight in the courts and in the streets for our rights to our deferred income called pensions – for security in our retirement. Human beings must be placed above greedy bankers, insurance companies and other corporate interests.

Tens of thousands of City of Detroit retirees and their survivors have been sent ballots this week to vote on an unacceptable “Grand Bargain” that either way will cause severe hardship to most of them. Pensioners are being pressed to vote “Yes” and agree to cuts to our monthly benefits amounting to about 30% – on top of medical, dental and vision cuts already forced on us. A “yes” gives up the legal appeals on the constitutionality of the Emergency Manager Law and the issue of the Michigan Constitution’s specific protection of public pensions.

Retirees are threatened that a “no” vote will result in much deeper cuts. The many pages of legalese details enclosed with the ballots will add to the confusion and terror accompanying either choice. The ballots will be counted by a firm in California selected by the same Emergency Dictator pushing these cuts. A mass movement can defeat these schemes.

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