Conyers Urges Kevyn Orr to Respect Michigan’s Constitution and Protect Public Pensions
(DETROIT) – Earlier this week, speaking from the witness stand on the fifth day of the Detroit bankruptcy trial, Detroit’s Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr said he could force a legally binding settlement plan on the City’s creditors – including its more than 23,000 retirees – that could include cuts to pension benefits. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement in response to this account:
U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr.
“I am deeply disappointed to hear that Kevyn Orr, the unelected Emergency Manager of Detroit, has opened the door to slashing the earned retirement benefits of Detroit’s public employees. I must remind Mr. Orr that putting the pensions of our brave police officers, firefighters, and other city workers on the chopping block violates not only our State law, but our City’s working class history and heritage. Long after Mr. Orr has left Detroit and returned to private practice, we Detroiters will be forced to bear the consequences of any decision to deny our workers their hard earned and constitutionally protected rights,” said Conyers.
“Tellingly, Mr. Orr acknowledged in court this week that he was unaware of any other instances when the bankruptcy law was used to supersede a state’s constitutional protection for pension benefits. I believe the law is clear on this issue. Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code requires a city to abide by all applicable laws, including state laws. Michigan’s constitution specifically provides, ‘The accrued financial benefits of each pension plan and retirement system of the state… shall not be diminished.’
“By spelling out protections for public sector retirees in its constitution, Michigan recognizes the importance of the State’s commitment to its workers. I encourage Mr. Orr to adhere to its laudable principles. As the Motor City continues to reorganize, the overwhelming majority of Detroiters strongly support the protection of the earned pensions of those employees who spent their careers working for Detroit and all of its citizens.”