Struggle escalates to stop Detroit school closings
Published Apr 1, 2010 9:16 PM
A citywide meeting held March 27 at the Central United Methodist Church in
downtown Detroit called for a united effort to address the escalating attacks
against working people, including school closures, education and other public
sector layoffs, and plans to seize municipal pension funds, downsize the city
and sell the Medical Center to an outside Tennessee-based corporation.
Sponsored by the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and
Utility Shutoffs, the gathering included local activists, political officials
and community organizers. Resolutions were adopted calling for opposition to
school closings; a mass demonstration on April 20 at the mayor’s office;
and support for the May Day demonstration as well as the May 8 national march
for jobs in Washington, D.C., being called by the Bail Out the People
A burgeoning political struggle in Detroit around the privatization of the
school system and the conflict between city workers and the Dave Bing
administration escalated on March 23 with two major demonstrations against the
crisis in the public education system and Mayor Bing’s
corporate-engineered plans to “downsize” the city.
Demonstrations express outrage
Outside the offices of the state-appointed emergency financial manager 2,000
union members, community people and youth demonstrated, demanding an end to
efforts to dismantle K-12 public education in the city. The picket was
organized by the Coalition of Detroit Public Schools Unions, which includes
clerical workers, teachers and other employees. The protest was also attended
by bus drivers from the Safeway transportation company whose contract has been
cancelled in favor of First Student Transportation out of Ohio.
The bus drivers traveled to Lansing, the state capital, at least three times in
mid-March to protest and meet with lawmakers. On March 23 they went again and
won a pledge from the state legislative appropriations committee to hold
hearings on the bidding process surrounding First Student.
The elected Detroit Board of Education, whose powers are being abrogated by the
emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb, went to court on March 23 seeking an
injunction to stop the proposed closing of 45 schools. A hearing will be held
on April 16 in Wayne County Circuit Court.
Support for the unions and the forces opposing the dismantling and
privatization is growing daily despite the intensive propaganda campaign being
waged by the corporate media and private foundations such as Kresge and
Skillman. These entities are praising the plans delivered by Bobb and Bing and
ignoring and attacking the unions and community organizations that are
After the demonstration at the DPS headquarters, more than 100 people marched
down Woodward Avenue to Orchestra Hall, where Mayor Bing was slated to give his
“state of the city” address. The demonstration was called by
Moratorium NOW! and American Federation of State, County and Municipal
Employees Local 207. Leaders from the DPS clerical workers union and other city
locals joined the protest.
Bing’s plan to “downsize” the city has been challenged by
Moratorium NOW! and others. The ruling class interests represented by Bing have
been compelled to respond to allegations of forced displacement and the
dismantling of city governance structures by corporate interests.
On March 23, WWJ news radio, the local CBS affiliate, ran reports all day on
Moratorium NOW!’s opposition to downsizing the city and the demand for
the declaration of a state of economic emergency and the imposition of a halt
to foreclosures, evictions and utility shutoffs.
Moratorium NOW! issued a poster that pointed to the role of the banks in the
crisis. It points out in plain language that there are hundreds of millions of
dollars being paid in debt service while workers’ salaries remain frozen
and cut, schools are being closed and the capitalist class is openly advancing
plans in the media to further dislocate and oppress the people.
At the March 27 town hall meeting, the Moratorium NOW! Coalition stated that
its present task is to raise the level of the political struggle so a clear
connection can be made between the assault on workers and the community in
Detroit and the overall economic crisis in the capitalist system at present.
Many workers and community activists have exclusively focused on Bobb and Bing
as culprits in the process. Although this is true in appearance, both of them
are acting on behalf of the interests of finance capital, which views the
public sector, including public education and municipal pension funds, as ripe
for seizure and exploitation.
City must cancel debt service to banks
In response to the crisis, community meetings are being held daily and there is
a sense of urgency emerging among the people. The Moratorium NOW! Coalition
will be making a major push to convey the necessity of united action and to
stress the underlying causes of the crisis, which is not confined to Detroit
but encompasses the entire state and country.
The city’s debt service payments to the banks and the role of the
financial sector and the corporations in the crisis must be addressed.
Moratorium NOW! is demanding the city administration appeal directly to the
federal government to immediately create jobs in Detroit. A letter to Bing was
delivered two months ago and a resolution to the City Council has been
submitted to this effect as well.
The mayor and City Council have not responded because of the corporate
orientation of Bing and the stranglehold that the financial institutions have
over Michigan’s largest municipality. There is also a newly dominant
group within the City Council which believes that school closings, downsizing
and pension fund seizures are the only logical response to the economic
Moratorium NOW! reiterated at the March 27 meeting that a political struggle
against the banks and corporations is necessary in order for these issues to be
successfully addressed. The coalition has called for a demonstration April 20
to further pressure the corporate-backed officials and the banks to impose a
freeze on foreclosures, evictions, utility shutoffs, school closings and
On March 29 there will be a rally at Cooley High School on the city’s
northwest side to oppose the school’s closing in June. Later the same
day, the emergency financial manager will begin holding invitation-only
meetings at Henry Ford High School to discuss the school closings.
Moratorium NOW! will support the rally at Cooley and picket the closed meeting
at Henry Ford High School. The organization has developed a leaflet that
outlines the major issues and emphasizes the need to build a mass struggle
against the banks to halt the cutbacks, layoffs and closings.
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