Proposal 1, a ballot initiative in Michigan to reinstate Public Act 4, popularly known as the “dictator law,” was defeated in the Nov. 6 elections. The act had been suspended when the Michigan Supreme Court upheld the legitimacy of the 226,000 petition signatures calling for the repeal of the draconian law.
Public Act 4 was instituted during early 2011 during a state and national right-wing offensive against labor organizations and oppressed communities. The November 2010 elections had placed a Republican majority in Congress and a narrow-majority Democratic group in the Senate.
Right-wing politicians fueled by the corporate-backed Tea Party movement won seats in state governments as well. In Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and other states, legislation was rushed through to outlaw collective bargaining and to restrict, if not eliminate, bourgeois democracy in local governments and school districts.
PA 4 imposed “emergency managers” on many majority African-American cities. In Detroit, a so-called “Financial Stability Agreement” was passed 5-4 by the City Council. This agreement was designed, like PA 4, to guarantee the payment of billions of dollars in debt-service payments to the banks.
A grassroots campaign was organized to collect enough signatures that would place a referendum on the ballot to overturn PA 4. This was done after efforts in the courts to stop the law were stalled.
Significance of ballot initiative
The efforts of Gov. Rick Snyder and the right-wing-dominated state Legislature were supported by the corporate-owned media. Editorials were run daily in the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press praising the financial emergency management and consent agreements.
Some 2,500 workers in Detroit were slated to lose their municipal jobs with the imposition of the Financial Stability Agreement. Cuts have been imposed which have reduced city services to the bare minimum.
The people of the state voted to overturn this draconian law. The vote illustrated the declining influence of the corporate media and the failure of the state government to intimidate workers and oppressed peoples into complacency.
Even though PA 4 has been voted down, the ruling class and its lackeys are continuing as though the elections never took place. The previous emergency financial manager law, Public Act 72, was resurrected after PA 4 was suspended upon validation of the petition signatures.
The reimposition of PA 72 is currently being challenged in the courts. However, if any lessons are to be learned from the struggle to overturn Public Act 4, the courts will not be the decisive factor.
On Nov. 15, Snyder and state legislative representatives announced they would draft another bill, Public Act 76, which would impose the same measures that had been rejected by voters. The bankers and their surrogates refuse to accept the political will of the people.
Workers and oppressed communities in Detroit and throughout Michigan must form broad coalitions to fight the downsizing of city, county and state government as well as the evisceration of public education. The Detroit Public Schools, the largest district in the state, has been decimated by the enormous debt-service payments to the banks which drain 80 percent of state aid.
The Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shutoffs is calling for the release of all relevant documents related to the financial instruments and loan agreements signed that have resulted in the economic strangling of the city of Detroit. Moratorium NOW! is demanding the halt of debt-service payments to the financial institutions.
The Financial Review Board, appointed by Gov. Snyder to lay the groundwork for a state takeover in the interest of the banks, reported that Detroit owed in excess of $16 billion in long-term debt. Yet the Moratorium NOW! Coalition asserts that the people of Detroit and Michigan owe nothing to the banks. It is the banks that owe the people!