The fight over the largest city bankruptcy case in U.S. history in Detroit reached a federal court on Wednesday, despite an earlier ruling that found the filing unconstitutional.
As U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes considered the legality of Detroit's bankruptcy filing, protesters gathered outside the courthouse to contest the plan being pushed by the city's appointed 'emergency manager' Kevyn Orr.
“We labored for our pensions and I feel as though no one has a right to take away our pensions from us,” explained Detroit city worker Angela Franklin to the Detroit Free Press. “To say it’s necessary to cut us… that’s unacceptable.”
Unions call the plan pushed by Orr as an attack not only their pensions and livelihoods, but on the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan as a whole.
And Sharon Feldman, who neither works or lives in Detroit, told the newspaper she felt it was necessary to participate in the rally because “what happens to one person happens to everybody."
"I believe that we have to work towards creating a world where all people are treated equally and with respect," she said. "Because if there’s unfairness, there’s going to be unfairness for everybody.”
Orr's filing of bankruptcy last Thursday is sure to do just that, warn union members and local activists, who also object to the extreme privatization and the gutting of public resources proposed by the un-elected official.
Though a state judge ruled on Friday that Detroit’s bankruptcy filing in federal court was in violation of the state’s constitution—which bans any action that proposes to cut the pension benefits of public employees—that judgement was overturned by a Michigan Appeals Court panel on Tuesday.
That decision put a temporary hold on three separate lawsuits attempting to block the Chapter 9 filing. Those plaintiffs include the General Retirement System and the Police and Fire Retirement System along with two separate lawsuits by individual retirees.
“The circuit court’s July 18, 2013, and July 19, 2013, temporary restraining orders and all further proceedings are stayed pending resolution of this appeal or further order of this court,” a three-judge panel said in Tuesday’s ruling.
Focusing on today's court proceedings and citing legal experts, Reuters reports that the federal judge "could rule immediately that all the litigation seeking to derail Detroit's bankruptcy petition be put on hold."
If Rhodes maintains the stay on lawsuits brought against Synder and Orr, the city's emergency manager will then have to show the city is "insolvent and that it made a good faith effort to negotiate with its creditors," including its employee pension funds, to justify its bankruptcy filing.
Orr claims he and the city has made such efforts, but the unions refute this in the strongest terms.
In addition to today's protest, union members have also organized a larger rally on July 25 to defend benefits and pensions for the city's 21,000 retirees and 9,000 public workers.