Benton Harbor Emergency Manager threatens to terminate public worker contracts under new law

After stripping local officials of all power, state-appointed Manager calls himself “the angel of common sense”

LANSING - During an interview with Fox 2 Detroit last night, the state-appointed Emergency Manager for the City of Benton Harbor, Joe Harris, was asked if he planned to exercise his power under the new Emergency Manager law signed by Gov. Snyder to void any and all union contracts. Harris responded by saying, “It is conceivable that I will terminate the contracts."He went on to describe himself as, "the angel of common sense,"and said, "90% of the citizens believe that I am the angel of common sense."

“First Harris stripped away our voting rights, and now he wants to force public workers who have already sacrificed to accept lower wages and benefits,” said Eric Sales, a local public employee from Benton Harbor. “Attacking local firefighters and police officers won’t solve our financial crisis, and will only hurt vital public services for our community. We need real solutions with input from local residents, not more attacks on working families.”

During Harris’ interview with Fox 2, he was also asked if Benton Harbor is a testing ground for what will happen in Detroit. Harris responded by saying, "It's my opinion that the mayor (of Detroit) cannot save the city at this point. The reason is because you have to change the terms of the collective bargaining agreements. Unions do not typically take a back step. They do not step backwards, they do not accept concessions."

“For Mr. Harris to suggest that public workers haven’t accepted wage and benefit concessions to help solve our state’s economic crisis is simply absurd,” said Mary Crayton, President of the A. Philip Randolph Institute of Benton Harbor. “Instead of attacking hard-working public employees who keep our communities safe, Gov. Snyder should require CEOs to start sharing in the sacrifice to move our state forward.”

The complete interview can be viewed here:

CONTACT: Zack Pohl, 517-980-6190