Supporting the struggle
We were pleased to see Ann Mullen’s stories regarding Detroit’s experience with the living wage, and the legislative/Chamber of Commerce efforts to prohibit local governments from passing such laws ("Payback?" and "Dying to kill the living wage," Metro Times, Dec. 11-17). Columnist Robert Kuttner was right when he called the living wage movement "the most interesting (and underreported) grassroots enterprise to emerge since the civil rights movement." But the articles failed to mention the work being done by the National Lawyers Guild Maurice and Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice. For the past two years we have been actively providing technical assistance and direct legal representation to this thriving, vital social movement, from our offices in Detroit.
Despite the passage of more than 100 ordinances around the country, there is no evidence that living-wage laws hurt small businesses or jeopardize urban economic development. This is nothing more than an attempt by corporate living-wage opponents across the country to scare cities away from passing living wage ordinances. The living wage works.
We are committed to working with activists in Michigan to oppose and testify against the efforts by special interests in the Legislature to prohibit living-wage ordinances. If such legislation does pass, we are preparing to bring a legal challenge to defend the right of local government entities to set the terms of the contracts and benefits they grant to corporations doing business with them.
Thanks for shedding much-needed light on a critical movement for economic and social justice in America today. —Julie Hurwitz, executive director, and Tom Stephens, Guild Law Center, Detroit
The mayor of Detroit is actually hostile to the living-wage law? It's no wonder. The starting pay rate for some Detroit city worker jobs is less than the living wage. Building attendants (janitors) have had the same starting pay for more than 10 years — $.7.53 per hour. Many single mothers working as junior clerks have to provide for their children on less than $8 an hour. Union contract negotiators have tried to remedy the low pay for city workers in negotiations which have dragged on for nearly two years. Mayor Kilpatrick, and Dennis Archer before him, have refused to bargain in good faith. City workers have not seen a raise since July 2000. Hundreds of other city workers were systematically, illegally underpaid for as long as six years (1995-2000). The City admitted in writing that they owe the workers a total of $1-$2 million, but they refuse to pay up. The Water Department's AFSCME Local 207 was thus forced to sue. The City's response was to lie and stall again. Thanks for the Merry Christmas, Mayor Kilpatrick. —Michael Mulholland, secretary-treasurer, AFSCME Local 207, [email protected], Detroit
Like Kelli B. Kavanaugh, my children and I depend on Belle Isle as a year-round sanctuary ("Back In The Day," Metro Times, Dec. 11-17). However, her reference to the so-called 1999 Master Plan for Belle Isle is deceiving. The rebirth of any nostalgic traditions for Belle Isle will not happen as long as Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick defies the people of Detroit. Although the Detroit City Council restored the Belle Isle Zoo's budget ($600,000 plus $100,000 for maintenance) Mayor Kilpatrick vetoed it. Perhaps Mayor Kilpatrick does not consider Belle Isle a suitable sanctuary for his family? The neglect of Belle Isle should be a source of shame for every Detroiter and it deserves better attention. Detroiters need to stop sentimentalizing for the "good old days" of Belle Isle and the entire city in general. Our elected leaders must show fiscal responsibility and stop the neglect of Detroit's jewel. —Elizabeth Magaña, Detroit
The photo of musician Vicki accompanying the Zero Potential column in the Dec. 4-10 issue should have been credited to Walter Wasacz. Send comments to [email protected]