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Union Leaders Head To Washington To Hash Out Detroit Bankruptcy

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A mural by the Grand River Creative Corridor (photo credit: Marie Osborne/WWJ)

A mural by the Grand River Creative Corridor (photo credit: Marie Osborne/WWJ)

DETROIT (WWJ) While Washington has been largely silent on the largest municipal bankruptcy case in history, UAW president Bob King and others are meeting with the Obama administration today to discuss how it impacts union workers.

Members of AFSCME and the American Federation of Teachers will also be in Washington to discuss Detroit’s bankruptcy.

White House officials will sit down with union leaders to discuss what could be a wide range of issues, including the impact of bankruptcy on the city’s beleaguered school district. The meeting with union leaders follows a gathering before Labor Day between White House officials and high-ranking members of Detroit’s business leadership where Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert and others discussed how the city can maximize existing federal help through grants and other programs.

“If we’re looking to have people invest their futures in Detroit by living here, one of the things we have to have is a quality school system,” Keith Johnson, president of the Detroit Federation of Teacher, told WWJ’s Vickie Thomas. “In order to have a quality school system, we have to have a tax base that will support that school system.”

This visit comes amidst ongoing action from unions inside Detroit to try to stop the bankruptcy case in its tracks on the grounds the city shouldn’t be able to shrug off its pension obligations and leave retirees in the lurch.

“As Detroit tries to make its way through the throes of bankruptcy I hope that those in attendance know that this is not just about dollars and sense, this is about people, particularly those who are retired and living off their pensions,” Johnson said.

Detroit owes creditors an estimated $18 million. Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and many others believe the only way the city can survive is to shed its staggering debt.

U.S Treasury Secretary Jack Lew made it clear in July the city shouldn’t expect any help with its financial troubles from the federal government.

“The issues that Detroit has in terms of problems with its creditors it’s going to have to work out with its creditors,” Lew told Candy Crowley on CNN’s State of the Union.

Orr’s spokesman Bill Nowling described the Detroit financial situation to the Detroit Free Press as a political battle no one on Capitol Hill wants to touch.

“They (the federal government) either have to say ‘no’ to Detroit or they have to say ‘yes’ to Detroit — and everyone else — and that’s not a political battle anyone wants,” Nowling said in the report.

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