For more than three decades, I served the City of Detroit as a clerk at the public library. In October of 1992, I won the “Employee of the Month” award, and in 1999, I received the “General Employees Merit” award. I worked hard, lived frugally, and I played by the rules. Even through wage freezes and concessions, I saved enough to buy a house and support my family. Through it all, I was promised a modest, but secure retirement.
Then the Detroit bankruptcy turned my world upside down.
My pension has to stretch a million different ways. It has to pay for groceries, gas in my car, and a health care plan since the City no longer provides one. Before the bankruptcy, I only earned about $1400 a month in my pension – and now I stand to see that sum slashed by 4.5%. That might not seem like a lot, but for me it has meant delaying important medical procedures until I can afford the co-pay.
I didn’t cause the city’s financial problems. I went to work every day while an ex-mayor who now sits in jail made illegal deals with Wall Street banks that cost the City hundreds of millions of dollars. My pension wasn’t a golden parachute. My retirement was part of a deal I made with the city – deferred compensation for a career of service.
And now, along with all other Detroit public workers, I’ll face the consequences for Wall Street’s mistakes.