Detroit Retiree Committee Explains Decision to Support Pension Cuts

Detroit, Michigan

When Detroit initially announced its plans to cut back worker pensions earlier this year, the Detroit Retiree Committee took a hard line: the cuts were unconstitutional and the Committee wouldn’t support them.

But the Committee eventually backed down, and retirees easily approved the pension cuts at the ballot box.

What caused the Committee to reverse course? Today, during testimony at Detroit’s bankruptcy trial, we got a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes decision-making that led to the change in sentiment. From the Detroit Free Press:

“Part of the test of whether Detroit’s plan would be successful was whether Detroit could be able to revitalize itself,” [Committee member Ron] Bloom said. “Anything we put forward, we had to feel in good faith was consistent with Detroit being able to revitalize itself.

“The city was dysfunctional. We didn’t like what they had to say often, but we felt their commitment to revitalization was sincere.”

[…]

The Retiree Committee agreed to endorse the plan ahead of a July vote by retirees. Retirees and workers voted in support of the plan.

Early on, the committee “had a pretty vigorous disagreement with how we thought the case should go,” Bloom said, adding that the retirees were never treated like favored insiders among the city’s creditors.

But as realities of the case set in, and it became clear pension cuts could be worse if retirees rejected the plan, the committee decided to back the plan.

“We believe that we received enough,” Bloom testified.

The restructuring plan, eventually endorsed by the Committee and approved by retirees, eliminated COLA increases and cut pensions by 4.5 percent.

 

Photo Credit: Mikerussell – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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