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Flint

Flint had Many Betrayers

By Gregg Shotwell - Socialist Worker, March 17, 2016

"The water crisis has also stoked the UAW's social-justice mission, union officials say."
-- Mike Colias, "How GM Saved Itself from Flint Water Crisis," Automotive News, January 31, 2016

"I put The Heretics in the deepest part of hell, though Dante had them spared, on higher ground."
-- Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones), The System of Dante's Hell, 1963

PUNDITS EXPRESS astonishment at the perdition of Flint, Michigan, as if the degeneration of a renowned American city is rare rather than emblematic of municipalities throughout the nation. Where have they been? Do they not recall the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in downtown Minneapolis during rush hour in 2007? Can a head in the sand feel so comfortable that they can't feel the tremors, quakes and reverberations?

New Orleans flooded in 1915, 1940, 1947, 1965, 1969 and 2005. Love Canal, Hinkley, California, and the Louisiana Industrial Corridor aren't anomalous cancer alleys. The United States is riddled with environmental depredation.

The calculated failure of American institutions not only to invest in vital infrastructure but to provide basic care for citizens isn't a shock, it's status quo. Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers [ASCE] publishes a report card for the nation's infrastructure. In 2013, the U.S. got Ds in drinking water, wastewater, inland waterways, roads, schools, dams, levees, aviation, transit and energy.

I guess it's uncivil for engineers to flunk an American marvel of mediocrity like Interstate 35W and other bridges, which were ranked at a C+. The overall D+ grade point average indicates that we did get some Cs in a few less precarious spots, like ports, parks and bridges. Take your hat off, hold your breath and pray to the EPA--we are about to cross the river of denial.

Gun ownership makes a home less safe, according to the statistics, but when a person feels surrounded by perilous social institutions and structural instability, it's natural to reach for a security prop, come as it may--blanket, rifle or bottle of gin.

For all the self-proclaimed greatness and chest-thumping bravado, Americans' expectations are low and receding like opinions pursued by dogged facts. Our characteristic emphasis on individuality and private property narrows and subverts the circumspection of our social purview to a belly-button muse.

The American Dream has shriveled into a gated community--the modern version of the besieged frontier stockade, now struggling to survive on minimum wage. What do you want to bet that more Americans invest in the lottery than the stock market?

The year before Delphi, a spinoff of General Motors, filed for bankruptcy in 2005, management garlanded the factories with a new slogan: "The Future Isn't What It Used to Be." And a sign posted on the demolished Buick City plant in Flint, Michigan, proclaimed, "Demolition Means Progress."

The policy of neglect is the counsel of despair. No wonder we have a volunteer army and multiple foreign wars. The homeland is hopeless. The walls of denial are caving in.

EcoUnionist News #92

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, February 22, 2016

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Just Transition:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Greenwashers:

Whistleblowers:

Disaster Capitalism:

The Poisoning of Flint: Capitalism and Environmental Sabotage

By Mike Kolhoff - Ideas and Action, February 18, 2016

Cruel disregard of human life have been part of the capitalist package from the very beginning. To the ruling class our lives are important only to the degree that we produce profit they can exploit. In its latest neo-liberal incarnation, capitalism seems to have embraced its murderous impulses on a grand scale. The frustrations of extracting profits from an exhausted planet and its people have compelled the “job creators” to commit ever more shocking crimes. The poisoning of Flint stands as grim testimony to the complete contempt such people feel for the rest of us. To them, we are not quite human.

The tragedy initially received regional media attention 2014, shortly after the Republican-imposed Emergency Financial Manager switched Flint’s water supply from the Detroit supply system to a local system using the nearby Flint River. EPA and state reports indicating the poisonous content of the Flint River, a river thoroughly polluted by General Motors and others [i], were willfully ignored.

The excuse given at the time was that it was a money-saving measure in a city teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Recent revelations have shown that even this poor excuse was an outright lie. [ii].  The question then is why did the Republican-appointed Emergency Manager make a decision that was so obviously sure to poison thousands of people?

One allegation is that it was a move to direct money away from Detroit, which at the time was in bankruptcy and being vigorously looted by every sort of shady speculator, including the selling of huge amounts of city real estate at what amounted to garage sale prices. The Detroit Water and Sewage Department made efforts to keep Flint from switching to the filthy water of the Flint River. They even offered their water at a reduced rate, one which negated any savings the City of Flint would make by switching. Flint would have actually SAVED money by staying with Detroit Water and Sewage. This was at a time when the Emergency Manager in Detroit was ordering that their own residents face water cut-offs if they couldn’t pay their bills.[iii]But the rightwing program of ethnic cleansing called for the complete destruction of Detroit, so the people of Flint were poisoned instead.

The cause of the mass-poisoning of the residents of Flint can also be laid at the feet of that innovation in capitalist extraction that has emerged in the last 25 years: Disaster Capitalism. It had nothing to do with saving 15 cents on the dollar, and it wasn’t mainly about diverting income from Detroit, it was about putting MILLIONS of dollars in public funds into the hands of private, rightwing capitalists. These are the people who financed the political campaigns that put the current gang of liars and murderers in power, and they were just looking for their payback – At least $12 million dollars worth of payback in fact. That’s what it was estimated it would cost to switch back to the Detroit water supply in October of 2015.[iv]

Who took that money? Contractors, the biggest an engineering firm from Texas ($4 million), with the help of the rightwing politicians who greased the way for them; many of whom can be seen in this photo of the all-white group surrounding the governor as he approves the aid package for Flint. [v]

Snyder has tried to blame the Flint City Council for the poisoning, but the facts tell a different story. In 2013 the Council voted to help build a new pipeline that would allow them to terminate their contract with the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, but the decision to stop taking Detroit water and start using the Flint River was made much later and by the Emergency Manager, at a time when the Council had no say in city decision-making.

“Snyder said that Detroit, after being informed of the Flint council vote, sent a “letter of termination” of water service. Detroit sent a letter giving Flint one year on its existing contract, but that didn’t mean Flint couldn’t get water from Detroit after that date. In fact, there was a flurry of negotiations between Detroit and Flint to sign a new contract that would carry Flint through until it could connect to the under-construction pipeline.”[vi]

The Flint water crisis is an illustration of the essential criminality of capitalism, with “disaster capitalism” taking the next step into open criminality. Those involved conspired to create a disaster, then reaped huge profits from its implementation, and are now reaping even greater profits from fixing the mess they made.

The greed-based, anti-human social and economic system we live in caused the poisoning of the people of Flint. This does not in any way absolve the individual politicians and capitalists who facilitated the disaster (they should all hang), but only places them in perspective. The system didn’t fail in Flint; it failed to protect the people of Flint, but that’s not what it was designed for. The system functioned exactly as it was supposed to: the ruling class was able to stuff it’s pockets with money, the politicians were able to pay-off their debts to them, and things are comfortably rolling on to the next election cycle.[vii]

EcoUnionist News #91

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, February 15, 2016

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Just Transition:

Bread and Roses:

EcoUnionist News #90

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, February 9, 2016

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Just Transition:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Greenwashers:

EcoUnionist News #89

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, February 2, 2016

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Whistleblowers:

Greenwashers:

EcoUnionist News #88

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 26, 2016

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

The Thin Green Line:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Whistleblowers:

Greenwashers:

Well, If You Ask Me: Flint

By Dano T. Bob - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 23, 2016

Wow, the current situation in Flint, Michigan is fucked up. In a situation brought on by a so called “Emergency Manager,” who was appointed to run the city by Governor Rick Scott, Flint has been getting its drinking water since April 2014 from the Flint River, via pipes that have caused massive lead contamination, poisoning and sickening city residents.

Wow, the sheer incompetence and idiocy of the state government in Michigan is astounding and the fact that it is destroying the health of citizens is appalling. So, what are the how and why of this water crisis, how can it be fixed and how can we finally stop things like this from happening? As someone who was living in West Virginia during the chemical spill and water crisis of 2014, I am all too familiar with the blindness and greed of politicians and industry. We must move to get these things fixed ourselves and demand our own citizens driven solutions, because we can’t rely on paid off hacks for our protection, that’s for sure.

Let’s start with the “Emergency Manager” position, created and implemented by Governor Rick Scott. It is an austerity measure at heart, a way to usurp municipal control from cities in Michigan and install top down bureaucratic leadership beholden to the state government, and meant to slash city budgets, services and labor. The reason that this “Emergency Manager” switched Flint’s water supply from the Detroit municipal system to the Flint River was to “save money”. This was not a democratically made decision, there were no studies of the health and infrastructure impacts. It was rushed into and now people are paying the price, with water that has been polluted with lead for well over a year.

Viewpoint: The Flint Water Crisis from the Ground Up

By Sean Crawford - Labor Notes, January 22, 2016

Photo: Over a thousand people joined a protest at Gov. Snyder's State of the State address, calling for the arrest of those responsible for this debacle. UAW Local 598

What has come to light in Flint, Michigan, over the last few months is scarcely believable. My entire city has been poisoned with lead by the criminal negligence of its very own government!

As if in some sort of dystopian novel, I leave my house to see the Red Cross providing disaster relief on my street. Down the block, a half-dozen National Guard Troops hand out rations of that oh-so-important, scarce commodity: clean drinking water.

My hometown of Flint has been known for many things through its history. First as the birthplace of General Motors, and subsequently as the battleground of the Flint Sit-Down Strike that formed the United Auto Workers.

That gave rise to a wave of union organizing across the country, and to the middle class. The quality of life that Flint residents struggled for and enjoyed was once the envy of the world.

More recently, Flint became famous as ground zero for the disastrous consequences of corporate globalization―chronic unemployment and underemployment, increasing wealth inequality, and the violence and destabilization that can happen in a community when companies are allowed to destroy people’s livelihoods.

These problems aren’t unique to Flint. But our city is a prime example of how the poor and working class are treated as disposable commodities―setting the stage for the current water crisis.

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