Conn: Other Detroit school unions ‘stupid’ not to rally

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing – Union leaders in Detroit Public Schools are divided over how to fight reductions in employee health care benefits sought by Emergency Manager Darnell Earley.

Coalition of Detroit Public Schools Unions urged members Tuesday not to drive to Lansing Wednesday and participate in a mid-day protest outside the Capitol organized by Steve Conn, president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers.

“I don’t think it’s productive at all, not at this point,” said Ruby Newbold, president of the Detroit Association of Educational Office Employees. “We don’t think strategically it’s going to help to get done what we need at this time. Rallying is not going to help.”

Newbold, chair of the coalition of unions, which includes the teachers union, said she would rather negotiate a better deal than the higher deductibles Earley is proposing.

Conn disagrees – vehemently.

“They’re stupid, that’s all,” Conn said in a Tuesday interview. “We’ve got to stop losing, which is all they stand for.”

Earley’s proposal would raise the deductibles of health insurance plans for DPS employees from $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families to as much as $4,000 for individuals and $8,000 for families. It also would hike co-pays for doctor’s visits, prescription drugs and trips to the hospital, according to Conn.

Conn has called the higher deductibles “Slum-surance” in union literature.

The DFT president is organizing a noon rally Wednesday outside the front of the Capitol.

Newbold said protesting in public will harm the position of employees at the bargaining table.

“The president of the DFT has choose not to participate with this,” Newbold said. “He’s chose to do this on his own.”

The last protest Conn organized in late April resulted in the closure of 18 Detroit schools because of a teacher shortage.

“We’ve got to force them to take us seriously after years of giving back and making concessions that get the district nowhere and has really helped in dissolving the district,” Conn said. “The teachers have drawn a line. They want to stand up and fight.”

“We are doing everything we can to turn out as many as we can and this is just beginning of the fight.”

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