Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, a Democrat, has called for union workers to contribute 20 percent more to healthcare costs and accept smaller pensions, The Washington Post reported Monday. He has also laid off 1,800 union workers, explaining that the city pays $25 million more in pension benefits per year than it does for fire and ambulance services, the Post said.
"The old days when getting a good city job meant that you put in your 20 years with the expectation that city government could take care of you for the next 40 is no longer a realistic or viable option," Bing has said.
But union workers are not storming City Hall, as they did in Wisconsin. For one, Bing isn't attacking the union's collective bargaining rights, as Republicans have done in Wisconsin and Ohio.
"Public employee unions are aware that they need to accept some pain now, and they would rather control how that pain is inflicted, as opposed to the loss of control that occurs under Republican governance," said Taylor Dark III, an expert in labor's relationship to the Democratic Party at California State University in Los Angeles.
Bing said he would turn over the city's budget to a state-appointed fiscal manager if necessary, using a new law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, that allows the state to cancel union contracts with public employees in fiscally distressed municipalities.
"Democratic leaders shouldn't be using the threat of laws put there by Republicans to intimidate workers," said Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, which the Post described as "a progressive activist group."
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and California Gov. Jerry Brown, both Democrats, are asking unionized state workers to accept concessions, but without provoking the same uproar as Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, the newspaper said.