An interview with Cecily McClellan, City of Detroit retiree and activist.
By Darrell Dawsey, Deadline Detroit, June 29, 2014
Retiree Cecily McClellan. Photo: Deadline Detroit
CECILY MCCLELLAN says she’s seen the fight brewing for years, decades even.
A union diehard, Detroit loyalist and city pensioner, McClellan, 61, says the intensifying battle over the fate of the pensions of retired city workers is the culmination of a long corporate effort to plunder local assets and turn over ever more public wealth to private interests.
From the takeover of Detroit’s schools in 1999 to now, McClellan says, efforts to strip-mine, privatize and exploit the city’s infrastructure have now dovetailed into what she sees as the battle of a lifetime: The struggle over the fate of billions in pensions owed by a city that says it is too broke to pay up.
As part of what’s being hailed as a “Grand Bargain” in the effort to re-order Detroit’s finances, emergency manager Kevyn Orr is offering the pensioners a deal that calls for a 4.5 percent base cut for general retirees and the elimination of all cost-of-living increases. He has warned that the cuts could swell to 27 percent or even more if the pensioners reject the deal. Meanwhile, cops and firefighters would see no base cuts but would have their COLA raises cut to 1 percent.
Further, corporations, foundations and the city’s mainstream media have all campaigned heavily to get seniors to vote for the deal, while promising doomsday scenarios filled with delinquent bills and empty cat food tins should retirees reject the deal.
Pensioners, though, aren’t scaring quite so easily. A number of them remain either undecided or vocally opposed to the deal. And no “no” vote has rung as loudly and as persistently as McClellan’s.
McLlellan was laid off from the city’s human services department in 2012, and then she ended up retiring. She belongs to the group, the Detroit Concerned Citizens and Retirees, and is vice-president of the city union , the Association of Professional and Technical Employees (APTE)
Deadline Detroit sat down with McClellan for a question-and-answer session last week to get a detailed sense of why, to her and so many other pensioners, the “grand bargain” amounts to little more than grand theft.
DD: THE “GRAND BARGAIN” HAS BEEN PUT ON THE TABLE. WHY ARE YOU SAYING NO AND URGING OTHERS TO SAY NO TO ORR’S OFFER TO PENSIONERS?
MCCLELLAN: You refer to it as the grand bargain. But that’s part of the propaganda. We see it as grand larceny, grand theft. We need that out front. We need to change the agenda, change the talking points. We see it as the total opposite. Continue reading »