Unions and city retirees protest, appealing after bankruptcy rul

Unions and city retirees protest, appealing after bankruptcy ruling

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(WJBK) -

Judge Rhodes ruled Tuesday Detroit is eligible to fix its finances in bankruptcy court. This is just the first phase of what will be a long process to resolve the financial issues.

Fox 2's Amy Lange spoke with union representatives and city retirees who voiced their concerns about the ruling.

VIDEO: Click on the video player above to watch Lange's report or read it below
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"What do we want? Justice!"

Marching in the street outside federal court - inside, Judge Steven Rhodes reading an exhaustive summary of his 140-page ruling.

Detroit is eligible for bankruptcy.

In fact, with 18 billion dollars in debt and 100 thousand creditors he says it was a forgone conclusion, and should have happened years ago.

"I think this is a very scary day because what the judge has done here, is he's said a state constitution, that's specifically and expressly protects vested pension benefits, can be taken away in bankruptcy. And that's very scary," says Sharon Levine, an attorney for AFSCME.

She's filing an appeal, fighting for the unions and retirees who stand to lose so much in this fight. Judge Rhodes ruling that pensions are not protected in bankruptcy.

"This is a death sentence for 23 thousand retirees if he allows the pensions to be cut, as they said, 16 percent on the dollar," says David Sole from the Stop Theft of our Pensions Committee.

"That ruling is so hurtful my heart just dropped. That's the worst thing that I could have heard ever because it's not going to just hurt me, my husband - but so many other pensioners," says Angles Hunt.

She's devastated by the judge's ruling that pensions - their pensions, 19 thousand dollars a year - can be cut.

"We worked 30, 40 years - some more than that - and it's not fair to us who worked, who supported this city, who still lives here, and they going to do that to us? They don't care about the people," Hunt adds.

"Some of them for example, retired police officers, don't have the benefit of social security. So therefore their pension is what they rely upon, and how are they going to maintain a quality of life?" says Keith Johnson of the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

Judge Rhodes did urge the emergency manager to negotiate with the pensioners before the court approves any plan of adjustment. Rhodes also finding that the city did not negotiate in good faith, but in the next breath saying it was impossible to do so with 100 thousand creditors. So now negotiations and the bankruptcy process move forward.

"The bargaining process continues to go on and we will continue to bargain at this particular point," promises Ed McNeil of the AFSCME Council 25.

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