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Anti-poverty organizers meet at the first
regional meeting of the Assembly to
End Poverty in the Rust Belt.
Photo/Leona McElevene

By Marian Kramer

The first Regional meeting of the Assembly to End Poverty in the Rust Belt was held in Detroit, Michigan, the weekend of June 18, hosted by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. The main purpose of the meeting was to receive reports from several states located in the region on the economic and political situation in their various states and to address these questions: can we organize a regional Assembly to End Poverty in the Rust Belt and create a plan of action to organize a movement to end poverty in the Rust Belt? Participants from some seven states attended the conference.

The Assembly to End Poverty grew out of the Poverty Summit Workshop that was held at the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit in June of 2010 with some 400 people. They agreed to work to politically educate leaders from within the dispossessed section of the working class, to collectively build strategy and tactics, and to challenge the cuts to the safety net. While doing so, they agreed to work to replace the shredded safety net and social contract with a new social contract that will guarantee a foundation of economic rights to the basic necessities of life. The understanding is that poverty today is not the same poverty when Dr. King built the poor people's campaign and welfare rights was founded. The poverty today is the result of technology being applied to industry. Huge sections of our class no longer are needed to work.

One of the key things coming out of the first Regional meeting of the Assembly to End Poverty was a Call to hold a march on Washington on June 30, 2012. This is the anniversary of the formation of the welfare rights movement. We are not talking here about a movement just for electoral politics. We are talking about building a movement that demands that this government have a plan to eliminate poverty and that we are a part of planning it for the interests of the working class, and to stop the wholesale corporate takeover that has increased this poverty. The conference discussed a plan on nationalization of education, healthcare, housing, and other necessities, in the interests of the people, not the corporations.

In the words of Mary Bricker-Jenkins, panelist and an organizer of The Assembly, "The rallying cry is, 'ONE CLASS, ONE CAUSE!' Despite the ruling class efforts to separate us, we are one. And our one cause is that we will claim the wealth we have created to meet the basic human needs of all of us—no exceptions!—and of this planet that can sustain us—if we let it."

Rose Brewer says, "We must build a movement for social transformation in this country. It is a must, an imperative and poor people will led it. The conference made that very clear," says Rose Brewer.

Maureen D. Taylor, State Chairperson/MI Welfare Rights Organization, adds, "The only thing standing between what a new world might look like and humanity, is air and opportunity. It is that clear understanding and analysis that forms the engine of political reality that will drive THE ASSEMBLY toward greater recruitment and a widening reach to all those who want to participate in this great transformation. Good Luck, Assembly!"

You can reach the Assembly to End Poverty in the Rust Belt by contacting the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization at (313) 964-0618 or by email at

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Demonstrator at UAW protest in Lansing,
Michigan is protesting the Emergency
Financial Manager bill which is destroying
democracy in Michigan cities.

By Claire McClinton

While efforts are underway to repeal Michigan’s Emergency Manager Act, (PA 4) with a ballot initiative, community and labor activists may find their strongest argument as to why this Bill must be done away with by sharing the experience of Pontiac, Michigan. Located around 30 miles north of Detroit, Pontiac was once a thriving city with GM plants, including the now defunct Pontiac brand.

The Emergency Manager Bill, signed into law by Governor Snyder this March, allows the state to send in a “financial czar” or “manager” to “financially distressed” cities, townships, and school districts. These managers have broad, unchecked powers which include: selling public assets, suspending powers of local elected officials, shredding union contracts, and even disincorporating local government. This law strips away any semblance of democracy and attempts to disarm the people of any means to challenge the “corporate takeover of Michigan”, as referendum organizer Brandon Jessup put it.

The Pontiac Silverdome, built in 1970, was once the home of NFL team Detroit Lions. For years, it was the largest indoor facility of its kind. Taxpayers subsidized the stadium for $55 million. The Emergency Manager sold it for $583,000. After the Governor signed the more enhanced version of the Bill, the “manager” immediately took away all authority and salary from both the Mayor and the Council. The Mayor’s salary went from $50,000 a year to $0. Meanwhile, the assistant to the Emergency Manager makes $135,000. Council staff was eliminated and Councilman Kermit Williams declared “I can't even talk to city employees about getting grass cut in my neighborhood.” Pontiac was the first of the cities with an Emergency Manager to successfully destroy a union contract. The “manager” requested and received permission from the state to terminate the 911 Police Dispatcher union contract. This was huge. Even though only about 11 workers were impacted, it shows that the Bill means what it says and is a grave threat to the union state we've come to know. Effective June 30, they will all be let go. Some of the workers have 22 years of service and there was no attempt to wait until the end of the year when their contract ended. Their jobs are gone. The county will now handle 911 calls for Pontiac.

Finally, as we go to press, in what is one of the most shocking actions yet, the Emergency Manager of Pontiac is requesting that this city be disincorporated or dissolved and become absorbed into the county!! By the time you read this article, Pontiac may not even exist anymore. The main asset they have left is their Water Treatment Plant, valued at around $300 million. Investors are salivating to get their hands on it.

Cutting our schools, raising taxes on the working poor, taxing our pension, and soon kicking welfare recipients off the rolls, while giving tax breaks to corporations is something that will not stand. This governor is showing us that there is such a thing as class interests at play here. The fight to recall this Governor, recall the State Senator who introduced the fascist “manager” bill, accompanied by a recent law suit, as well as the Repeal the Bill movement are manifestations of the growing battle to wrest our state government from handing Michigan over to total corporate control.


This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 800-691-6888
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