Rick Snyder’s Democracy-Busting Army on The March in Michigan

As democracy takes shape in parts of the Middle East, it’s wilting in the American Midwest, where Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s band of “Emergency Financial Managers” are cracking down on people’s power. If the founding fathers were here, they would weep.

Rick Snyder's Democracy-Busting Army on The March in Michigan

Snyder signed into law last month a measure allowing State-appointed Emergency Financial Managers to take over struggling local governments and finances in order “properly address” various “challenges,” like pesky unions.

Explaining the law, which expanded 1990 legislation granting such managers power to dissolve union contracts, take over police business and eradicate education, Snyder declared, “For too long in this state, we’ve avoided making the tough decisions, but waiting limits options and makes the solutions much more painful.”

“The goal is to allow the state to intervene at an earlier stage so that the need for an emergency manager can be avoided altogether,” said Snyder. He’s like Scott Walker on steroids.

If the law’s only an emergency measure, then Michigan must be on fire, because in the four weeks since Snyder activated his managerial army, they have already coerced firefighter and police unions to offer concessions, including taking on more health care fees, and sent layoff notices to 5,714 teachers in Detroit, one of the four cities whose school systems have been co-opted by Snyder’s team, which warned the Detroit Federation of Teachers that their emergency manager, Robert Bobb, may modify or completely eradicate their collective bargaining rights.

But Benton Harbor, another town whose school system has been seized, faced perhaps the most draconian crackdown this week, when their manager, Joseph Harris, stripped the local government of its power with an edict reading, “No City Board, Commission or Authority has authority or power to act on behalf of the City.” They may only call official meetings to order, approve the minutes and adjourn the meetings.

In other words, Benton Harbor’s elected officials are under Harris’ control, and the people’s electoral will has been squashed.

Rest assured, though, that the people are fighting back: about 5,000 residents rallied outside the Capitol Building in Lansing this week to demand “Reaper Rick” stop attacking unions.

“The script Governor Snyder has written for his Republican cronies is not the kind of Michigan we want to live in,” insisted Herb Sanders of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “If the politicians won’t listen to us at the Capitol, then we’re prepared to take the fight to them in their home districts.”

Mark Gaffney, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, which organized the protest, also decried Snyder’s latest intervention, “This is sad news for democracy in Michigan. It comes after the announcement of Robert Bobb in Detroit ordering layoff of every single public school teacher in the Detroit Public School system.”

“With the stripping of all power of duly elected officials in Benton harbor and the attack on Detroit school teachers, we can now see the true nature of the Emergency Manager system,” said Gaffney.

It’s queer that Republicans are always decrying tyranny, when it’s members of their own party, like Walker, Snyder and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who passed legislation stripping workers of collective bargaining rights—are the ones taking power into their own hands, and away from the ballot box.