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Letters sent from Michigan mayor's office lead to union concerns

Letters recently sent out by Detroit's mayor's office stating that the city would no longer honor union contracts with fire, paramedic and police unions have caused quite a stir. By April 3, the letter was disavowed by the state-appointed emergency manager who was brought in to help put Detroit's finances in order. The emergency manager was assigned by Michigan's governor in an effort to get the city out of nearly $14 billion in long-term debt.

The letters stated that since the city was in receivership status, it would no longer honor employment contracts made with unions going forward. According to the letters, the city was no longer required to participate in collective bargaining agreements, and they stated that the city was withdrawing from all mediations and arbitrations. Further, the letters also claimed that the Michigan Bureau of Employee Relations had been ordered to dismiss pending union issues.

The letter was sent to five different commissioners of employment relations, but according to a spokesman for the emergency manager, the emergency manager had no knowledge or warning of these letters. The spokesman has stated that the origin of the letters is being investigated and that actions of these types would require approval beforehand. A spokesman for the mayor's office declined to comment.

Individuals assume that the their employer will honor employment agreements made upon being hired, and if the employer is not honoring those agreements, they may have legal and financial recourse against the employer. A business law attorney may provide invaluable counsel to individuals in this situation and may be able to hold dishonest employers accountable for contract violations in order to preserve the workers' rights.

Source: Yahoo News, "Detroit emergency manager disavows letter on union contracts," Steve Neavling, April 3, 2013

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