'I Borrow Money to Buy Food,' Says City Employee as Mayor Dave Bing's Cut Threatens to Push Working Families Onto Welfare Rolls in City of Detroit

Mar 16, 2010, 14:20 ET from Michigan AFSCME Council 25

City employees urge cooperation and collaboration to avoid pushing more people into poverty and ask employees from all unions to be at the city council hearing Wednesday, March 17.

DETROIT, March 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- City employees today urged Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to consider the plight of working families before making draconian pay cuts that will push them below the federal poverty level guidelines.

"I borrow money right now to buy food," says Jackita Muhammad, a teller in the city's finance department.  "I try to buy beans and other staples so I don't have to ask family for money, but the truth is that if the mayor cuts my pay, I will have to declare bankruptcy."

Muhammad, a single mother of three, has been employed with the city since the year 2000.  Ironically, during the day she handles thousands of dollars in checks and money that people come to her window with and pay for taxes and other costs.

Her plight, though precarious, is not unusual for people working full time in Detroit.  AFSCME workers make less than $30,000 a year on average and represent less than 40 percent of the city's payroll budget.  The mayor's pay cut will make many of them qualified for welfare benefits even though they work full time.

"It's simply not fair," says Muhammad.

Danielle Grazes, a civilian employee in the police department agrees.  "I have four kids and my husband is laid off," says Grazes.  "With furlough days I could lose my house."

Both Grazes and Muhammad are members of Michigan AFSCME Council 25.  Union leaders are calling on the mayor to find a way to help employees, not push them into the working poor.  "People like Ms. Grazes and Muhammad give their all to serve the people of Detroit," says Catherine Phillips, Michigan AFSCME Council 25 chief negotiator for Detroit.  "To ask low-wage employees to take a significant cut in pay, healthcare and other benefits when it is not needed nor included in the deficit elimination plan submitted to the state to balance the budget is simply wrong.  We encourage the mayor, his administration and the city council to find a way to work together to give people a chance to provide for their families, not push them into poverty."

Michigan AFSCME Council 25 is encouraging city employees from all departments to attend a hearing held by city council at 5:00 PM on Wednesday, March 17 on the 13th floor of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Building.  For more information, city employees and concerned citizens can reach AFSCME at (313) 964-1711.

Michigan AFSCME Council 25 represents more than 90,000 public workers across Michigan.  AFSCME International represents 1.4 million public workers nationwide.  News releases issued by Michigan AFSCME Council 25 are available at http://laborweb.afscme.org/sites/MI_C_25.

SOURCE Michigan AFSCME Council 25