Following the high profile Chicago teachers strike, water workers for the city of Detroit have gone on strike after a breakdown in contract negotiations. The strike is illegal in Detroit and city officials have gone to court in an effort to end it after workers walked off the job. The strike began after it was approved on Sunday.
The city had planned cuts to jobs in the water and sewer department in an effort to save money. After those cuts were announced, the 950 members of the AFSCME Local 207, the largest union in the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department announced a strike. Contract talks had been going since May, and according to a local press account, the union offered concessions.
According to the union, one of the new terms the city is trying to negotiate would give city officials the right to layoff union workers and replace them with nonunion workers. The city is also asking for changes to the union’s health and pension plans and a 10% pay cut to save more city funds.
Public workers unions are banned from striking in Detroit in order to avoid work stoppage on critical services like firefighting, law enforcement or municipal utilities like water and sewer. Earlier this month, the Detroit Board of Water Commissioners agreed to bring in outside consultants to downsize and reorganize the department. The plan is to reduce the department from its current 2,000 workers to 400 over the next five years. The consulting firm EMA Inc., will get $17 million to complete the downsizing.
The workers on strike currently make $10-26 dollars an hour.