The Democratic mayor's dilemma
February 12, 2012



It's tough when liberal politicians are faced with having to balance a budget.

In Virg Bernero's 2009 mayoral campaign, he was endorsed by Fraternal Order of Police, the Teamsters, the UAW, and the firefighters union, and in his 2010 campaign for governor, "the angriest mayor in America" was the champion of the working man. But Eric Baerren , editor of Michigan said this in a December 31, 2011 post:

Virg Bernero built a national public persona going on Fox News and shouting, shouting, shouting about the working man. The working man is getting screwed in America by the rich, he howled on Fox News, and now appears with semi-regularity with MSNBC's professional shout machine, Ed Schulz.

Oh, but that Tee Vee reflected reality. Back at home, the pitbull for the working man has regularly tossed his own union workers under the bus to benefit Lansing's 1 percent. This is not some new development, mind you. Teamsters in the city went more than 1,000 days without a contract, a period during which they filed an unfair labor practice against him for hiring scabs to save money and demanding the sort of wage and benefits concessions Bernero says on Tee Vee are destroying the middle class.

While you can't blame a municipal leader for trying to make shrinking dollars go the furthest, you can blame a guy for doing it while shouting about the evils of things he's doing before a national audience.

Bernero isn't the first to find himself in this position. This is from the book Collective Bargaining in the Public Sector (2001), edited by Joyce M. Najita and James L. Stern:

[Michigan's Act 312 of 1969] was one of the first laws in the United States to provide compulsory interest arbitration for public safety employees. . . Among the most serious critics of Act 312 was the former and late mayor of Detroit, Coleman Young. Ironically, as state senator, he had been one of the sponsors of the bill in the state legislature. In the fall of 1978, an arbitration panel ruled in favor of the police and firefighter unions in Detroit in a high-stakes case. Mayor Young filed a legal appeal, asserting that the arbitrators had ignored the city's inability to pay the increase in wages and sick leave benefits, and by 1979 he was publicly looking for a way to "save us from these maniacs," referring to the arbitrators. In 1980, the Michigan Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Act 312 and ordered Detroit to pay $50 million in back pay in compliance with the 1978 arbitration award. Young then pressed for legislative changes, without success. (pages 116-117)