Public-sector workers protest Detroit bankruptcy

July 23, 2013 at 8:56 AM
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DETROIT, July 23 (UPI) -- Firefighters gathered on the streets of Detroit to protest proposed cuts to worker benefits as part of the city's bankruptcy process, officials said.

Detroit filed for bankruptcy Thursday in federal court to get out from under $18.5 billion in debt.

Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr was tasked with restructuring the city's debt through bankruptcy court. Orr has the power to set wages and benefits for the city's 20,000 public-sector workers as well as to break union contracts, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

United Auto Workers President Bob King said Monday he's outraged at how the city's employees are being treated by the process.

"I know how bargaining can work in difficult crisis situations," he said. "In the auto industry, labor with management, the community and government, we all worked together and look at the industry now."

Al Garrett, head of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25 said the city should try to "sit down at the bargaining table" with unions.

Protests from a variety of public-sector workers groups are scheduled for each day this week, the Journal said.

Meanwhile, U.S. bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes of the Eastern District of Michigan said he would hold his first hearing on the bankruptcy filing Wednesday. The judge is considering the city's request to put all pending lawsuits on hold during the bankruptcy proceeding.

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