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We Must Support Detroit's Fight for the Right to Water

By Juston Wedes - The Ecologist, July 4, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The waves of the Detroit River lap up onto the wall of the riverwalk downtown, and young children play in the fountains that shoot up through the concrete in the park below the towering Renaissance Center.

It is Saturday in Motown, and the sun is shining warm rays down on working-class folk enjoying a day of rest.

Just a few miles away, on the east side across the highway, Jean stands on her porch and worries about the pregnant mom whose water was shut off Thursday morning by Homrich contractors working for the City of Detroit under emergency financial management.

Water is a human right. Oh yeah?

They came that morning in a red pickup truck with a homemade decal on the side. In an arc around a circle it read "DETROIT WATER COLLECTION PROJECT" - quite official-looking - and inside the circle it read "WATER ****** HOMRICH".

The asterisks representing a scribbled out word "SHUTOFF" that was removed after community protests about shaming neighborhood residents.

Jean came yesterday to the weekly, growing Freedom Fridays rallies at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Dept (DWSD) to voice her outrage at seeing a pregnant mother and young children denied the basic human right to water in a city surrounded by the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth, containing 21% of the world's surface fresh water.

Her voice faltered as she worked to hold back tears on the megaphone. Her tone was one part desperation and one part pure rage, a rage that is simmering with the summer heat and the threat of over 100,000 family water shutoffs in the hot months ahead.

Earth Minute, June 24, 2014: Detroit’s Water Crisis

By Anne Petermann - Global Justice Ecology Project, June 24, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The shocking water crisis in Detroit: hundreds of thousands of people being denied access to water. 

The Earth Minute is written and recorded by GJEP Executive Director Anne Petermann in partnership with KPFK FM. 

Click here to listen: 

https://soundcloud.com/sojournertruthradio/sojournertruthradio-6-24-14-2

Water as a Human Right

By Martin Zehr, aka Mato Ska - New Clear Vision, March 11, 2011 (reprinted by suggestion of the author)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In the Middle Rio Grande region of New Mexico water planning took on a significant character that was open and inclusive. The Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) approved the 50-year plan worked on for over nine years by the Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly. The Water Assembly worked with the regional Water Resources Board of the Middle Region Council of Governments (MR COG) and maintained the direction and intent of the plan. The regional water plan was approved by the 15 municipalities of the region, the regional water utility authority, the irrigators’ conservancy district and the flood control authorities of the two counties in the region, some with particular caveats included in their memoranda of agreement. Hundreds of individuals from environmental groups, advocacy groups, real estate interests, water managers of utilities, planners, administrators and specialists in hydrology and geo-hydrology have participated and actively engaged the communities in the region for input on recommendations and preferred scenarios.

The plan is over 400 pages long with 43 recommendations, and a preferred scenario. In the implementation of the plan, Water Assembly officers worked on stakeholder advisory committees such as the Ad Hoc Committee of the Interstate Stream Committee (ISC), the Water Resources Advisory Committee (WRAC) of the Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA), the Albuquerque Reach Watershed Advisory Group and the Water Resources Board of the Middle Rio Grande Council of Governments (WRB). These advisory committees were integrated with governmental entities and play an important role in providing real input into their decisions.

New Mexico state law authorizing the development of regional water plans alludes to the active role of the 16 regional plans that have been developed. The experience of the Middle Rio Grande Water Assembly would seem to suggest that there is a need in this enabling legislation to make the regional planning processes empowered to act and fund as a governmental entity. This directly impacts on state legislation in California and elsewhere addressing the issue of water as a human right. Many such resolutions are nonbinding and/or generally worded in a way that does not define their intent or establish and empower entities that are to implement the resolution. Without defined authority and funding, the plans are at the mercy of corporate and private interests that so profoundly influence the existing governmental entities and are subject to the intrusions of administrative staff.

Troubled Waters: Misleading industry PR and the case for public water

By Emanuele Lobina - Corporate Accountability International, June 2014

When it comes to the nation’s most essential public service, mayors and municipal officials face a momentous challenge.

Local governments are investing in public water systems at all-time highs, but in the absence of adequate federal support, many systems still face serious infrastructure reinvestment gaps. Over the next 20 years, U.S. water systems will likely require a staggering $2.8 to $4.8 trillion investment. In response, private water corporations are waging a national campaign to present privatization, in its many forms, as a cure-all that will reduce costs and increase efficiency.

Even where public water systems are thriving, the private water industry is pressuring public officials to pursue private water contracts repackaged in terms deemed less offensive to a skeptical public. But are public-private partnerships (PPPs), and other euphemisms used to describe water privatization, a way forward?

The key findings of this report indicate no. All too often, promised cost savings fail to materialize or come at the expense of deferred infrastructure maintenance, skyrocketing water rates, and risks to public health.

The current trend toward remunicipalization (return of previously privatized systems to local, public control) of water systems is a primary indicator that privatization and PPPs are not the answer. Since 2003, 33 U.S. municipalities have remunicipalized their water systems. Five have done so in 2014 alone. And an additional 10 have set the wheels in motion to do so this year through legal and/or administrative action. This closely mirrors the accelerating global remunicipalization trend. Paris, where the two largest global private water corporations (Veolia and Suez) originated and are headquartered, has notably led the charge to remunicipalize, saving tens of millions of dollars since returning its water system to public control.

As this report finds, private water contracts can pose substantial economic, legal, and political risk to local officials and the communities they serve. The findings come through review and analysis of lobbying reports, Congressional records, city case studies, and empirical evidence drawn from research by the Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU). They show the private water industry depends on political interference, misleading marketing, and lack of public oversight to secure its contracts. This report exposes the private water industry’s tactics and makes the case for democratically governed and sustainably managed public water systems, providing public officials with a set of examples and recommendations to bolster public water.

Read the report (PDF).

Coal's Death Tally Goes Far Beyond Turkish Mine

By Chris Williams - System Change not Climate Change and Socialist Worker, May 19, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Think about the last time you got to the top of a mountain one mile high. Now think about descending that distance below the surface of the earth, foot by dark foot, far below all life, light or oxygen. You go down there to dig.

What you’re digging for, deep in the hot, fetid, bowels of the earth, is carbonized life forms, millions of years in the making, turned to a type of rock that ignites and burns; one that your prime minister and energy analysts tell you will help the economic future of your country.

But you don’t go there primarily to dig or because it’s going to expand the economy. It’s much more personal than that—and much less voluntary. You go there because you have to; because it’s how you survive. Or, in the twisted parlance of the day, in a country where mining deaths are a regular occurrence, it’s how you “make a living.” Digging is just something you do as a means to another end.

How else would there be over 92,000 people from your country, ready to make that descent every day? Knowingly entering such an alien, inherently dangerous environment, where invisible, odorless, colorless, poisonous and explosive gases lurk? Where death and injury are a constant risk, in a country where the death rate among miners is higher than in China; a country where, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute, miners suffered over 13,000 injuries in 2013 alone.

The death toll from Turkey’s latest horrifying mining catastrophe, one of the worst industrial tragedies in recent world history, has risen above 300—all human beings who were there to “make a living.” The disaster affects every single one of the 100,000 residents of the nearby town of Soma—from which many of the miners hail and where coal mining is all there is left after neoliberal policies devastated agriculture and other aspects of the local economy.

In the face of such all-encompassing and sudden calamity befalling a community, there are certain responses one could expect from any member of the human species.

The first is to express the most basic of human emotions: sympathy, empathy and deep sadness for the tragic loss of life. To his eternal shame, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP, by its initials in Turkish), which is heavily connected to private mining interests, couldn’t even manage that.

Rather than offering his heartfelt condolences to the injured and their relatives, friends and comrades, desperately searching for glimmers of hope in the darkness, and news of their loved ones, he despicably minimized the horrifying loss of life by comparison to century and a half-old mining disasters in Britain and claimed “these accidents are usual.” There’s simply no excuse one can conjure for such cold-hearted contempt for the working people of Turkey. Particularly as Erdoğan was reiterating a similarly callous sentiment from 2010, after 30 miners lost their lives in an explosion in a mine near Zonguldak city: “Death is the destiny of the miners”.

Capital Blight - Grist's Ben Adler Throws the Working Class Under the Bus.

By x344543 - January 12, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Recently grist.org climate writer Ben Adler wrote an article, Hey, protester, leave those Google buses alone, excoriating anti-gentrification protesters for organizing a blockade of a private charter bus, contracted by Google, in protest of that company's contribution to the ongoing gentrification of the precious few remaining working class neighborhoods in San Francisco.

In the article, Adler made the rather glib argument that the protesters were ignoring the needs of the Earth, "because", he argued,

Driving in one’s own private car is far more elitist than sharing a bus with one’s coworkers. It is also vastly worse for the environment. The buses take cars off the road. Fewer cars mean less traffic, and less idling in traffic, which is especially polluting.

I'm sorry, but this has to be one of the most asinine articles Grist ever published, and it's wrong on so many levels.

First of all, to accuse those residents who are protesting very real economic threats to their ability to keep living in San Francisco with "class antagonism" is the height of accusing the victims with commuting the crimes. Capitalist economics, by nature, are institutionalized class antagonism of the working class by the employing class, and this is no different. If this were the mid 1850s, the author may very well have been accusing the abolitionists with stirring up "race hatred".

Secondly, it's highly ironic that Grist would be now defending Google, when they, themselves have rightfully called them out for organizing a fundraiser for climate change denying Senator Jim Inhofe (R, Oklahoma).

Thirdly, Adler makes a nonsensical argument that gentrification is "good for the environment", an argument which is contradicted by Adler's own previously published article, Pushing Poor People to the Suburbs is Bad for the Environment.

Indeed it is. Gentrification is a form of capitalist oppression which not only does not deliver on its own promises, it harms workers, people of color, and the environment. In fact, Gentrification is another form of colonialism.

Labor’s Route to a New Transportation System: How Federal Transportation Policy Can Create Good Jobs, First-Rate Mobility, and Environmentally Sustainable Communities

By staff - Cornell University Global Labor Institute, July 2011

Federal transportation policy is set every five to six years through the Surface Transportation Authorization Act. This policy largely shapes investment in our nation’s transportation system. Currently, only unions whose members are employed in the transport sector play a role in trying to influence federal transportation legislation, but the Reauthorization Act is hugely important to all union members and working people. The current legislation, Safe, Accountable, Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA -LU ) expires September 30, 2011. The reauthorization of federal transportation policy presents an important opportunity for union leaders and members to advocate for key policy reforms that will create good union jobs, defend and expand the role of the public sector in transportation, provide safe and affordable mobility to working families and reduce the transport sector’s contribution to air pollution and climate change.

The state of the U.S. transportation system determines working families’ access to affordable, high-quality mobility and, in turn, their ability to meet essential needs such as getting to work, school, medical services, recreation and more. The maintenance and operation of private vehicles consumes a growing portion of working families’ household budgets and puts owning and operating a vehicle completely out of reach for some. The impact of rising gas prices on working families’ mobility exacerbates the fact that only 50% of Americans have access to public transit. (need citation) Furthermore, in response to budget shortfalls, local governments have increased fares, laid off workers, reduced transit services and offered up public transit systems to privatization.

Read the text (PDF).

Notes on the miners strike, 1984-1985

By Steven - LibCom, January 11, 2007

The miners strike of 1984-85 will always be remembered in British working class history as the most significant turning point in the power relationship between the working class organisations of the trade unions, and the state representing the interests of the privileged minority in the late twentieth century. The losses endured by the working class and their organisations as a whole with the defeat of the miners are still to this day attempting to be rebuilt, as are the shattered communities of the ex-pit towns. Understanding the struggle and the lessons that can be drawn from it during the months of 1984-85 are of utmost importance if these organisations are to be rebuilt, as well as the working class movements as a whole.

In 1974 the then Conservative government had been replaced with a Labour one, brought down by the miners strike of the same year. The Labour government realised that the working class, particularly the miners, had political power to exercise, and that if exercised correctly could force change in even the leadership of the country. Obviously wanting to avoid this in future, Labour set up think tank groups to decide the best course of action to stop this happening again, bringing an end to their term of power. The think tanks set up pinpointed the idea of national pay bargaining (a centralised structure where issues on pay and conditions could be discussed by miners across the country, which had ended area disputes over wages and other such inequalities) as a main factor in the power that the miners wielded. Their power was in their unified strength behind the organisation and the unifying nature of this structure was recognised as the reason for the successful strikes of 1969, 1972 and 1974. Labour introduced 'Area Incentive Schemes' alongside the structure of national pay bargaining and against national ballots in an attempt to split the miners. This meant now that wages and conditions would be decided locally, and the area was given the higher degree of importance than the national. The scheme was most well received in Nottinghamshire and the Midlands (against national ballot decisions), where as we will see, sought to consolidate its own interests ahead of that of the majority of miners on strike during 1984-85. However, Labour lost the next general election, and the Conservatives again came to power in 1979 with Margaret Thatcher at the helm and the Area Incentive Schemes carried on as the Labour government had initiated them.

The events of 1984 were a culmination of many years of struggle by the miners to raise wages and conditions, and in the years immediately previously to the great strike to prevent earlier attempts of pit closures, the most obvious attempt being in 1981 by the still new Thatcher government. The threat of strike action had however, caused the Thatcher government to abandon this and led to the Yorkshire miners to pass a resolution declaring that if a pit was to be closed for any reason other than exhaustion or geological difficulties, then a strike would take place to defend it.

Enron Played Central Role in California Energy Crisis

Greg Palast and Robert Bryce interviewed by Amy Goodman - Democracy Now, May 16, 2006

[in 2001] California was plunged into an unprecedented energy crisis. Rolling blackouts shut down parts of the state. Power bills soared. It turned out that at the center of the crisis was Enron — although the company’s role wasn’t fully understood at the time. We play excerpts of audiotapes that proved Enron asked power companies to take plants offline at the height of the California energy crisis–in order to make more money.

AMY GOODMAN: In California, the state’s former governor Gray Davis praised the jury for convicting Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. David said, quote, "Given the way Enron ripped off California, I think the jury did an excellent job. I take some solace in the fact that Lay and Skilling be will send some time in prison," he said. Six years ago, California was plunged into an unprecedented energy crisis, rolling blackouts shut down parts of the state, power bills soared. It turned out that at the center of the crisis was Enron, although the company’s role wasn’t fully understood at the time. Two years ago, lawyers involved in a lawsuit in Washington state obtained audio tapes that proved Enron asked power companies to take plants offline at the height of the California energy crisis, in order to make more money. In one taped phone call, an Enron employee celebrated the fact that a massive forest fire had shut down a transmission line carrying energy into California, causing the price of energy to rise.

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