All In with Chris Hayes, 8/21/13, 8:52 PM ET

Is Detroit bankruptcy a result of liberal governance?

Lee Saunders, from the AFSCME union, and Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, join Chris Hayes in the wake of 100 formal objections to Detroit's proposed bankruptcy.

Detroit pension threat is ‘attacking the people that served the city well’


Detroit is broke, and the city’s retired workers may have to pay a hefty price. Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s emergency manager, has said he may cut the city’s pension funds in order to pay back creditors. The city workers’ unions have fought back against this threat, saying that cuts to the modest pensions would devastate their members.

Lee Saunders, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, an AFL-CIO union, joined Chris Hayes on All In Tuesday night to talk about his objection to cutting pensions. Detroit’s pension holders receive, on average, $19,000 a year. These workers “gave their lives to public service in that city,” said Saunders.

“$19,000 a year is not a lot of money,” he said. “I couldn’t live off of that. I don’t believe you could live off of that. The banks definitely couldn’t live off of that. The folks in corporations couldn’t live off of that. Yet we are attacking the people that served the city well.”

In economically devastated Detroit, the city’s retired public workers depend on their pensions to meet their basic needs. “They tell us if their pensions are reduced, they won’t be able to pay health care,” said Saunders. “They won’t be able to buy prescriptions. They won’t be able to put food on the table. They will lose their homes.”

“We’ve got to make sure they’re retiring in dignity,” Saunders added.

Watch the video above for Chris Hayes’ full interview with Lee Saunders.

Detroit pension threat is 'attacking the people that served the city well'